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EARLY LIFE. 1811-1829. 


Introductory — The Scoto-Irish and their Characteristics— Henry and John Law 
rence compared— Scope and Object of Biography — John Lawrence's Father— 
His Mother — His Sister Letitia — His successive Homes — His Childhood — 
His Nurse Margaret — His School at Clifton — Anecdotes — Foyle College and 
its Surroundings— His Companions — Anecdotes — His Intellectual Progress — 
Dr. Kennedy and Sir Robert Montgomery — Wraxall School — Reminiscences 
by Wellington Cooper and F. B. Ashley — Offer of Writership by John Hud- 
dlestone — ' A soldier I was born, and a soldier I'll be ' — Haileybury College — 
Its Staff of Professors and Course of Education — Contemporaries of John 
Lawrence — Anecdotes — Reminiscence by J. H. Batten — Sir Charles Trevelyan 
— Irish Element in John Lawrence — Chelsea Friends 


LIEE AT DELHI. 1829-1834. 

Prospects of John La\vren<_". — Start for India — His Companions — Homesickness 
— Residence in Calcutta — Ruling Principles of his Life — Appointed to Delhi 
— History and Description of Delhi — Battles for Empire — Successive Cities — 
The Great Mogul and his Treatment by the English — Crimes and Abuses in 
Palace — Sir Charles Metcalfe — Theopbilus Metcalfe — Duties of Resident — 
Character of City Population — The Delhi District — Reminiscence by Charles 
Trevelyan — Work and Life of John Lawrence as ' Assistant to Resident " for 
four Years — The Sullateen — Slavery — Forgery— Story-telling — A Family 
Gathering — Robert Napier , /g 





Paniput, historical and geographical — Battle-field of India— The Jats and their 
Characteristics— The Sikhs and their Religion— Duties of Collector— Their 
Variety — ' Cutcherry on Horseback ' — Sympathy with People — Reminiscence 
by Charles Raikes — Jan Larens sub janta— John Lawrence's Mode of Work- 
ing — Anecdotes — The Village Cowherds and Arrears of Revenue — Reminiscence 
by Sir Richard Pollock — A Tonic — A Durbar — Solitude — Purchase of Chanda 
— Narrow Escape — Fragment of Autobiography — ' A hunt, a robbery, or a 
murder ? '—Jan Larens — Legendary Fame — ' The Breasts of the Faithful' — 
Physical Strength — Moral Courage — A Service repaid— Story of 'The 
Brothers ' — Arrest and Detection of the Murderer by John Lawrence — Murder 
of William Fraser, Commissioner of Delhi — Detection of Murderer — Saves 
Russeldar from Drowning — Chase after a Robber — 'The widow and her 
money-bags' 42 



Reminiscence by W. S. Seton Karr— His Friendship for Lawrence, and his Tri- 
bute to his Memory — John Lawrence transferred to Gorgaon — Predatory 
Character of People — Nature of Country — ' Passive resistance ' — 'Settlement 
officer ' at Etawa — Robert Mertins Bird — His Services and Career — Retired 
Civilians — ' Settlement of North- West ' — ' Permanent settlement ' — Its Results 
— Law of Sale and its Results — Difficulties of Settlement — Vil'age Communi- 
ties and Boundary Disputes— The Talukdars — Settlement Officers of North- 
West — Opposing Schools — Description of Etawa — Famine — Its Causes, 
Effects, and Remedies — Views of John Lawrence — Pilgrims and Pilgrimages — 
The Goddess Situla, or Smallpox — A Brahmin Pilgrim — Starvation — Work at 
Etawa — Reminiscence by J. Cumine — Some personal Characteristics of John 
Lawrence — Story of 'The disputed boundary* —Remarks by Sir Henry 
Maine — Dangerous Illness — Determines not to die — Journey to Calcutta — 
Goes on Three Years' Furlough — General Character of first Ten Years in India 
— Reminiscence by Herbert Edwardes 76 



Paucity of Materials for Biography — No Journals, and few private Letters — How 
explained — Changes in Clifton Home — Death of Father — Marriage of Sister 
Letitia — The * Lawrence Fund ' — Death of old Nurse Margaret — Visit to 
Scotland — Visit to Ireland — Meets his future Wife — Visit to Bonn — Visit to 
Bath — Reminiscence by Mrs. Kensington — Visit to Lynton — John Sterling 
and Caroline Fox — Second Visit to Ireland — Becomes engaged to Harriette 
Hamilton — Her Antecedents — 'Carders ' of Meath — Story of her Father and 



Andrew Rabb — Her early Life — The Marriage — Its Happiness — Anecdotes — 
Wedding Tour on Continent — Visit to Rome — News of Cabul Disaster reaches 
them at Naples— First Letter of John Lawrence— His Illness — ' If I can't live 
in India, I must go and die there ' — Sails for India . , , , .114 



Sketch of Afghan War — Why material to Biography— Governor-Generalship of 
Lord Auckland — Progress of Russia — Character of Afghanistan and Afghans — 
Dost Mahommed — His Advice and the way in which he was treated — Advice 
of other great Authorities and how treated — Mission of Alexander Burnes — 
Shah Soojah — ' When your military difficulties are over, your real difficulties 
will begin ' — Fatal Infatuation — Rising at Cabul —Death of Burnes and Mac- 
naghten— Akbar Khan and the Retreat — The Moral — Lord Ellenborough 
and the Army of Vengeance — The Sandalwood Gates — Manifesto of Lord 
Ellenborough — Who was to do most to carry it into practice ? 



John Lawrence and his Wife land at Bombay — Adventurous Journey across 
Central India — Lord Ellenborough's Pageant — Dearth of Employment — 
Camp Life — The Taj at Agra — Meeting with George Lawrence on his Return 
from Captivity — Narrow Escape of George Lawrence — John Lawrence reap- 
pointed to Delhi — Sir Robert Collie Hamilton — Annexation of Khytul — 
Reminiscence by Colonel Henry Yule — Birth of Eldest Daughter — Meeting of 
the Lawrences and their Wives at Kurnal — Condition of Kurnal — Sanitary 
Inquiries of John Lawrence — The ' Purveyance System ' — Condition of Native 
Women — Story of ' The Leper ' — Treatment of the Natives by English — Sym- 
pathy with them — The Great Gulf— Magistrate of Delhi — Jail Reform — John 
Lawrence owed nothing to Patronage — Annexation of Scinde and its Charac- 
ter — ' Peccavi ' — A Heritage of Triumphant Wrong — Sir Henry Hardinge 
Governor-General — His History and Character — His Preparations for Defence 
against Sikhs — Meets John Lawrence at Delhi — Mutual Impressions — First 
Sikh War — ' No one can tell what fools may do ' — Battle of Ferozeshah — A 
Cadmean Victory- John Lawrence ' the Base of Operations ' for Sobraon — 
Battle of Sobraon — Annexation of Jullundur Doab — Questionable Treatment 
ofjummoo and Kashmere — 'Send me up John Lawrence' — Reminiscence 
by Colonel Ramsay , 141 



Great Leap in Advance — Folio Volumes of Letters — Character and Population 
of Jullundur Doab — Reminiscences by Robert Cust and Hercules Scott — 



Heavy Work — Powers of Despatch — Harry Lumsden and Edward Lake — 
Fortress of Kangra— Its History, Resistance, and Submission — A Bloodless 
Victory — Land Tax to be paid in Money instead of in kind — Importance of 
•this Reform — The Rajas of the Hills — Female Infanticide — Its Causes — The 
Bedi of Oona — ' Those Bedis were not such bad fellows ' — Humour of John 
Lawrence — Danger of Combination among Sepoys foreseen — His Relations to 
his Subordinates — Visit to Simla 169 



Character and Career of Runjeet Sing — ' It will soon all be red ' — Eastern 
Dynasties — State of Punjab under Runjeet's Successors — Character of Sikhs 
— Sir Henry Lawrence Resident at I^hore— Bona-fide efforts to save the Sikh 
State His Measures— John Lawrence takes his place at Lahore — His special 
Difficulties — Divided Responsibility — The Sirdars, the Maharani, and her 
Grand Vi2ier Lai Sing — Letters— Anecdotes — The Question of Jagheers — 
Jan Larens sub janta again — Absolute Straightforwardness — Golab Sing 
and Imamuddin— Their Characters — State Trial and Banishment of Lai Sing 
— Henry Lawrence practically Ruler of the Punjab — His Assistants and his 
Work— John Lawrence returns to Jullundur — A Bold Prophecy — ' Asses low ' 
— George Christian and George Barnes— Treatment of Chiefs in Jullundur 
Doab— Important and Difficult Question — A Cow Riot — Banishment of the 
Maharani — Character of Sir Henry Lawrence's Rule in Punjab— His Happi- 
ness there — Henry a John-ite, and John a Henry-itc— Henry Lawrence goes 
to England with Lord Hardinge — Relation of Lord Hardinge to the Law- 
rences 183 


John Lawrence 'acting' Resident at Lahore again — Letter of Lord Hardinge to 
him — Drawbacks and Difficulties in his Work — Passive Resistance of Sirdars 
— Reminiscence by Lewin Bowring — Simplicity of Life — ' The gorgeous East ' 
— House and Household — Friendship with Sir Colin Campbell — Arrival of 
Lord Dalhousie in India — Sir Frederick Currie succeeds John Lawrence at 
Lahore — Birth of second son Henry— Dhurmsala — Murder of Agnew and 
Anderson— Was it planned? — Story of Moolraj — Letters and Advice of John 
Lawrence — Delay of chief Authorities — Lord Gough and Lord Dalhousie — 
Exploits of Herbert Edwardes — Van Cortlandt— Siege of Mooltan and its 
Vicissitudes — General Rising in Punjab -Second Sikh War — Sikhs allitd with 
Afghans — Battle of Chillianwallah — A Victory or a Defeat ? — Achievements of 
' Assistants to Resident' — George Lawrence —James Abbot — Lieutenant Her- 
bert — Reynell Taylor — Position of John Lawrence in Jullundur Doab — Con- 
tentment of People — Force at his Disposal— Risings in the Hills — He conducts 
a Thirteen Days' Campaign— Leads Sikhs against Sikhs— Successes— Bedi of 
Cona again — Escape of a Guru — Charles Saunders— John Lawrence attracts 



Attention of Lord Dalhousie — Masterful Character of Lord Dalhousie — His 
Relations to Lord Gough and Henry Lawrence— Change of Master, and 
what it often implies — Local Experience and its Value — Racy Letters of Lord 
Dalhousie — Bulk of his Correspondence sealed up for fifty Years — Return 
of Henry Lawrence to India — His Ikbal — Capture of Mooltan — Battle of 
Gujerat — Submission of Sikhs — ' Runjeet Sing is dead to-day ' — Advice of 
John Lawrence — Annexation of Punjab and its Justification .... 208 



How was the Punjab to be governed? — Balance of Civil and Military Elements — 
Sir Charles Napier and Lord Dalhousie — A Volcanic Board — Did it answer 
its Purpose ? — Its three Members : Henry Lawrence, John Lawrence, C. 
Greville Mansel — Their Idiosyncrasies— Physical Characteristics of Punjab — 
Its Rivers and Doabs — The Derajat — A Country of Extremes — Hill Districts 
and Plains — Boundaries and Mountain Ranges — Frontier natural or ' scien- 
tific '?— Races inhabiting Punjab — the Peshawur Valley — Character of North- 
West Frontier — Runjeet Sing's Principles of Government, of Taxation, of 
Punishment — Disarmament of People — Protection of Country — Raising of Irre- 
gular Regiments — The Guide Corps, its History and Characteristics —Protec- 
tion of Peshawur Valley — Defensive Arrangements of Frontier — The ' War- 
dens of the Marches' — Raising of Police — Prevention and Detection of 
Crime — Cattle-stealing — Dacoity — Thuggee — Jails built — Native Customs, 
as far as possible, respected — Land Survey and Revenue Settlement — Its 
Benefits — Reforms in Taxation — Soldiers become Cultivators — Development 
of Resources — Road-making — Robert Napier and Alexander Taylor — The 
Grand Trunk Road — Canals — The Bari Doab Canal — Coinages and Lan- 
guages — Education — Agriculture — Forest Trees — Sanitary Measures — 
' Perfection made up of trifles ' — The Punjab a Financial Success — General 
Results— Quotations from ' Punjab Report,' from Lord Dalhousie, and the 
Directors of East India Company — Sir Richard Temple's Retrospect . 243 



Difficulties and painful character of the subject — Dhurmsala — A Bear Hunt and 
a Nose Maker — Story of a Gudi — Mrs. John Lawrence during second Sikh 
War — The Lahore Residence after Annexation— Busy Scene — Meeting of the 
Board — Subjects to be dealt with — Spheres of the Lawrence Brothers — Sir 
John Kaye on John Lawrence — Differences of Opinion and Heart-burnings — 
Loss of Koh-i-noor — The Brothers compared and contrasted — Henry Law- 
rence's generous Fight for Sirdars — His unique Character — His Peregrina- 
tions — ' Achilles absent is Achilles still' — John Lawrence brought into Promi- 
nence, how? — ' A killing Summer' — Arrest of Sirdars — Reform of Tariff — 
Sir Charles Napier — His Character and Disappointments — His Biography and 
his Writings— Antagonism to Lord Dalhousie, to the Lawrences, and to Civil 


Government generally— Scinde and Punjab Schools in India — ' Backward ' and 
• Forward ' Policy— Frere and Lawrence— Quotations from Sir Charles Napier 
— His Attack on Punjab Administration — His Knowledge of the Subject — His 
Opinions on Things in general — His Prophecies — Answer of John Lawrence 
— Meeting of Antagonists at Lahore — Story of Selection of Mean Meer Can- 
tonments — Sir Charles Napier's Tour of Inspection — The Kohat Pass — Fierce 
Controversies — Letters of John Lawrence — The Administration in Scinde — 
Visit of John Lawrence to Lord Dalhousie at Simla — No Holidays allowed in 
the Punjab — ' The Punjab head ' — Question of Frontier Force — Visit of Sir 
Henry Lawrence to Cashmere and Ladakwith Hodson — Illness of John Law- 
rence — Dr. Hathaway — Affectionate Letter of Lord Dalhousie— John Law- 
rence's own Anticipations of his Future compared with the Reality — Death of 
infant Son — Tenderness of John Lawrence — Daughters sent to England with 
Nicholson and Edwardes — Mansel leaves the Punjab — His Character — Suc- 
ceeded by Montgomery — His History and Characteristics — The Triumvirate 
at Foyle College and on the Punjab Board — Story of the Simpson Brothers — 
Visit of Lord Stanley — ' Heroic simplicity' — Subordinates of the Lawrences — 
Their Careers and Characters — The Board is to be dissolved — What it had 
done— Had it answered its purpose? — Chief Subjects of Difference between 
the Lawrence brothers — Which was right ? — Reminiscence by General John 
Becher — How did Montgomery's Advent affect the Question at issue? — 'A 
buffer between two high-pressure engines ' — Pathetic Letters of John Law- 
rence — Both Brothers offer to resign — Lord Dalhousie makes his Choice be- 
tween them — Sir Henry Lawrence leaves the Punjab — Parting Scene at Lahore 
and at Umritsur — Career and Influence of Sir Henry Lawrence . 



Effects of Henry Lawrence's Departure — General Character of John Lawrence's 
Rule — His chief Fame rests on it— Consolidation and Development — Abolition 
of Board good for State then, and, still more, four years later — Difficult Ques- 
tions to be dealt with — Montgomery 'Judicial Commissioner' — Edmonstone 
* Financial Commissioner ' — Division of Labour — Shifting of Parts, but Actors 
the same — First Letter to Nicholson — * Nicholson worth the wing of a regi- 
ment — Last Appeal of Henry Lawrence — Gravitation of John Lawrence 
towards his Brother's Views — Less Worry and more Work — General Charac- 
teristic of Chief Commissionership — Justice — Equity — Subordination — Eco- 
nomy — Thoroughness — Despatch — Kindness to Natives — Frontier Policy — 
Distribution of Patronage — ' Avoid the hills ' — John Lawrence's chief Objects. 
Occupations, and Difficulties — Correspondence with Lord Dalhousie best 
shows his Head ; with Nicholson, his Heart — Difficulties in dealing with 
Nicholson, with Robert Napier, with Coke, with Macleod — ' A lac of rupees ' 
— ' If you want the thing well done, go to Napier ' — Taking of a Bribe — De- 
scription of Macleod — Exceptional Advice to Becher — Treatment of Natives by 
English Officers— Complications in Bahawulpore — Important indirect Results 
— Policy towards Afghans and frontier Tribes — Murder of Mackeson — Panic in 
Peshawur District — ' An imperial No '—Lawrence's Opinion of Herbert Ed- 
wardes and Sir James Outram — An imperial ' Yes ' — Letters to Courtenay — 
Letters to Lord Dalhousie and increasing Intimacy— At Peshawur— The Bori 




Afridis— John Lawrence under Fire— His Glee— Attempt to murder Godby— 
John Lawrence sends second Batch of Children to England with Charles Saun- 
ders— Powers of Work— Visit to Mooltan and the Derajat — Cattle-stealing 
still — ' The first specimen of the conquering race ' — Futteh Khan Khuttuck— 
Lawrence's Description of him— Troubles with Hodson in Command of Guides 
—Complaints against him— John Lawrence's Forbearance— Court of Inquiry 
— Kader Khan— Hodson remanded to his Regiment— Differences between 
Tribes of Northern and Southern Derajat— The ' Cunctator '—Succeeds Ed- 
monstone— The Delectable Mountains— House and Work at Murri— Birth of 
third son Charles— Philip Melvill and George Christian— First Meeting with 
Richard Temple— His Powers of Work and rapid Rise—' Punjab Report'— 
Temple becomes Secretary to John Lawrence— Relief to Chief Commis- 
sioner — Reminiscence by Temple— Second Punjab Report — Moral and 
material Progress . 3^7 



"he Crimean War — ' Be on the look-out for Menschikoff in the Khyber ' — Russia 
and Afghanistan — ' Don't send a European Envoy to Cabul ' — Views of Ed- 
wardes, of Lawrence, of Lord Dalhousie — Moral Courage and Loyalty of 
John Lawrence — Character of Afghans — John Lawrence's Negotiations with 
Gholam Hyder Khan — Diplomacy not necessarily Trickery — Description of 
Hyder Khan — Herat and Peshawur — Mohammed Khan and George Lawrence 
— Anecdotes — ' Look at his hand ' — Khazwanis and Khugwanis — The Turks 
beat the Russians — Conclusion of Treaty — Its Terms — ' The soul of the 
battle' — Return of old Punjabis to John Lawrence — Lake — Reynell Taylor- 
Harry Lumsden — Neville Chamberlain — George Campbell — Sydney Cotton — 
What Lawrence cared for in his Subordinates — ' Keeping the team together ' — 
Difficulties— Correspondence with Nicholson, Neville Chamberlain, Coke, Ed- 
wardes, Montgomery, Napier — ' Blessed are the peacemakers ' — Magnanimity 
and Forbearance of John Lawrence — Nicholson's ' pen and ink ' work — 
Napier's Public Works and Expenditure — Result of John Lawrence's Efforts 
— Relations to Lord Dalhousie — Character of Lord Dalhousie — His command- 
ing Powers — His Defects — His Style of Writing — His Kindness — His Appre- 
ciation of Services — His Ill-health — His Dignity — Every Inch a King — Mas- 
terful Character of John Lawrence — What enabled him to get on with Lord 
Dalhousie — Mixture of Qualities — ' You are a good hater ' — Correspondence 
with Lord Dalhousie — General Character of his Rule — A Baronetcy or a 
K.C.B. ? — Illness of Lady Lawrence — What she would have missed had she 
gone to England — Farewell Visit to Lord Dalhousie at Calcutta — Annexation 
of Oude— John Lawrence's Views of it — The ' Chief Commissioner ' to be- 
come ' Lieutenant-Governor ' of the Punjab — Estimate of John Lawrence by 
Lord Dalhousie, by Sir J. P. Grant, and Sir Barnes Peacock — Last Meeting 
of the Brothers Lawrence — Arrival of Lord Canning — Departure of Lord 
Dalhousie— He goes Home to die— His farewell. Letters— The K.C.B. 
at last 390 



STORM. 1 856-1 85 7. 


Change of Masters — Impressions of Lord Canning — The War with Persia and its 
Causes — Disgust of Lord Canning and Sir John Lawrence — Who was to have 
the Command? — Sir John Lawrence's Opinion of his Brother Henry — Reminis- 
cence by Sir George Campbell — 'Jobbing for one's friends ' — Loyalty of his 
Friends — Popularity, and his Attitude towards it — Roughnesses — Appetite for 
Work — Overdone at last — ' Distracted with one botheration and another ' — 
Nicholson again — Anecdotes — The Crimea, or Bhurtpore, or Kashmere ? 
— Temple goes to England — ' Never say Die' — Dost Mohammed and Canda- 
har — Proposed Interview between the Dost and Sir John Lawrence — A Wild- 
Goose Chase — Sir John Lawrence's Policy towards Afghanistan — Important 
Letters — Letters for the Present and Future — Lord Canning agrees— Meeting 
in the Khyber — Picturesque Scene — Interviews with the Dost — Should English 
Officers be placed at Cabul ? — • My verbal assurance pledges Government as 
much as a written article' — Terms of Treaty — Anecdotes of the Dost — His 
Truthfulness — How he made both Ends meet — Mission of the Lumsdens to 
Candahar — Strict Limitation of its Objects — Sir James Outram in Command 
in Persia— Sir Henry Lawrence becomes ' Chief Commissioner ' of Oude— Death 
of Lady (Henry) Lawrence — Letter to Sir Henry with Hints for his New Work 
— The Sisyphean Stone — Illness of Sir John Lawrence — Thinks cf returning 
to England — 'The little cloud' — Brewing of the Storm — The Chupatties — 
Causes and Symptoms of the Mutiny — Sir John Lawrence at Sealkote and 
Rawul Pindi — Bursting of the Storm . . . . . . . .4; 



May— June 1857. 

Scope of Chapters on the Mutiny — Sir John Lawrence the ruling Spirit in 
the Punjab — 'Not our system, but our men' — Resources of Punjab — 
Europeans— Regulars — Irregulars — Which Way would the Irregulars go ? — 
Distribution of Troops — Chief subordinate Officers where placed — Sir John 
Lawrence at Rawul Pindi — Montgomery at Lahore — His Idiosyncrasies and 
his Measures — Disarmament of Sepoys — Extreme Difficulty of the Question — 
Other Precautions — Umritsur and Ferozepore — Sir John Lawrence's Opinion 
of Lahore Officers — * Pucca trumps' — His Illness— His first Measures — 
'Retake Delhi' — His Mind imperial, not provincial — His first Telegrams — 
His first Letters — His Predictions — Determines to raise fresh Troops — The 
Movable Column and Neville Chamberlain — Responsibility of each District 
Officer — Council at Rawul Pindi, and what went on tbeje — General Reed — 
Letter to Mangles — Sir John Lawrence's Humour — Stirring Letters to 
General Anson — A forward Policy — ' Do something ' — ' Take a wide view ' — 


'Avoid isolation '—Letters from General Anson, and Differences of Opinion- 
State of Things at Umballa— Loyalty of ' protected ' Sikh Chiefs, Puttiala, 
Jheend, and Nabha— Anson will not disarm the Troops— Vis viva of Law- 
rence—Commissariat requires sixteen Days !— Cholera— Death of Anson— 
Sir Henry Barnard— Narrow Escape of Siege Train— Advance on Delhi- 
Battle of Budli-ke-Serai— Our Position on the Ridge— On what did our 
Hopes rest ? 4 68 



May— June 1857. 

Practical Justification of Sir John Lawrence's Policy— Maxims in dealing with 
Mutiny— Move Irregulars in from Frontier— Isolate the Regulars— Raise 
fresh Troops— Utilise national Feelings of Sikhs— Keep the Administration 
going—Don't go too fast— Report Everything— Coke— Wilde— Advantages 
of Position at Rawul Pindi— Less Worry, more Work — Bird's-eye View— Near 
to Frontier— Telegraphic Communication—' I like issuing orders by telegraph ' 
—Knowledge of his Subordinates—' Give the horses their heads ' — Enormous 
Correspondence — Lady Lawrence at Murri— Reminiscence by Lady Law- 
rence—By Edward Thornton— 'A flagrant escapade' — What it shows— 
' Hang the cul-de-sac ! '—Caution of Sir John Lawrence— Letters to Mont- 
gomery — Prudence — Letters to Lord Elphinstone and Major Hamilton — 
Advocates strong Measures at first — Opinion of Hodson — Letters to Lord 
Canning, Hervey Greathed, and Colvin— Utilises his Knowledge of Delhi — 
Bartle Frere and his pre-eminent Services in the Mutiny — ' The extremities 
must take care of themselves' — Frere and Lawrence compared — Mutinous 
Letters intercepted — Outbreak in Peshawur District — Importance of Peshawur 
— 'A nest of devils' — A Master-stroke — Its Influence on Borderers — Exploits 
of Nicholson — ' Terrible courage ' — Disaffection of Irregular Cavalry — Fate 
of the Fifty-fifth and John Becher — Lawrence obliged to recall to Peshawur 
Regiments which he had sent off for Delhi — General Reed goes to Delhi — 
Was General Johnstone to come to Peshawur ? — Lawrence proposes to give 
Sepoys their Discharge as a Safety-valve— His Love of Justice — His Mercy 
— ' Clemency Canning ' — Correspondence with Edwardes and Cotton — 
'Punish to deter, not for revenge '-- Punishment Parade at Peshawur— 
Eighty Men's Lives saved by Lawrence — Outbreak at Jullundur — Lawrence's 
Advice — Incapacity of Johnstone — Four Native Regiments go off for Delhi 
— Indignation of Lawrence — 'Some of our Commanders are worse enemies 
than the Mutineers themselves' — George Ricketts at Loodiana, and his Ex- 
ploits — General Gowan — Disarmament at Mooltan by Crawford Chamberlain 
— Selected by John Lawrence for the purpose- -Napoleonic Policy — 'Push on' 
— Save the Well-disposed — Separate Punjabis from Hindustanis, and save 
them — Proclamation to Sepoys , 505 


PORTRAIT to face title-page 

MAP of the Punjab and adjoining Countries. 1849-1858 „ page 542 





EARLY LIFE. l8ll — 1829. 

Nowhere within the circuit of the British Islands is a more inte- 
resting, a more vigorous, or a more strongly marked type of character 
to be found than among the inhabitants of the North and North-east 
of Ireland. The people who have sprung from that sturdy mixture 
of Scotch and Irish blood are not without their conspicuous faults. 
No race which is at once so vigorous and so mixed is ever free from 
them. A suspiciousness and caution which often verges on selfish- 
ness, an ambition which is as quiet as it is intense, a slow and un- 
loveable calculation of consequences, these are some of the drawbacks 
which those who know and love them best are willing to admit. On 
the other hand, there have been found amongst the Scoto-Irish men 
who, under the most widely different circumstances, in Great Britain 
itself, in that ' Greater Britain ' which lies across the Atlantic, and 
amongst our widely scattered dependencies, last, not least, in that 
greatest dependency of all, our Indian Empire, have rendered the 
noblest service to the State as intrepid soldiers, as vigorous adminis- 
trators, as wise and far-seeing statesmen. Among the Scoto-Irish 
there have been found men who have combined in their own persons 
much of the rich humour and the strong affections, the vivacity and 
the versatility, the genius and the generosity of the typical Irishman, 
£ ~ with the patience and the prudence, the devotion and the self-reliance, 

VOL. I. B 


the stern morality and the simple faith of the typical Scotchman. In 
some families one of these national types seems to predominate 
throughout, almost to the exclusion of the other. In others the 
members differ much among themselves ; one conforming, mainly, 
to the Scotch, another to the Irish type of character, although each 
may manage to retain something which is most distinctive -of the other. 
This last would seem to have been the case with the heretofore little 
known family which the names of Henry and John Lawrence have 
made a household word with Englishmen wherever they are to be 
found, and which, it may safely be predicted, will be loved and 
honoured, so long as England retains any reverence for what is great 
and good. 

In the wide circle of that illustrious brotherhood which sprung 
from the marriage of Alexander Lawrence and Letitia Catherine 
Knox, it is hardly fanciful to say that Henry Lawrence was essentially 
an Irishman, but with a substratum of those deeper and sterner 
qualities which we generally consider to be Scotch ; that John was 
essentially a Scotchman, but possessed also much of what is truly 
loveable and admirable in the typical Irishman. A study of the 
character of two gifted brothers, so like and yet so unlike, would have 
been of deep interest even if it had been the will of Providence that 
they should have lived and died, as their grandfather had lived and 
died before them, amidst the petty interests and the monotonous 
routine of the quiet town of Coleraine. But this was not to be. In 
the strange vicissitudes of human fortune, the two brothers, differing 
widely as they did in aptitudes and temperament, and separated from 
each other in very early life, were brought together again in India : 
the one from the Army, the other from the Civil Service, to sit at the 
same Council Board, and to rule in concert that huge and warlike 
province which, a year or two before, had seemed to threaten the very 
existence of our Indian Empire. They were to rule that huge pro- 
vince, in spite of their mutual differences, with unbroken success. 
When, at last, the differences became unbearable, like the patriarch 
•of old and his younger relative, they were to 'agree to differ,' each 
going on his different path, but still united, each to each, in their 
purity of purpose, in their simplicity of character, and in their love 
for the people of India ; each appreciating the other's gifts, each 
doing full justice to the other's aims, and each retaining, as it will be 
my happiness to show, in spite of many heartburnings, his brotherly 
affection for the other to the very end. 

i8n-29 EARLY LIFE. 3 

Each was to be called off in a measure, or for the time, from his 
proper calling. The elder brother, the ardent artilleryman, was, in 
comparatively early life, to drop the soldier and to take to civil work 
and after living to be named, should he survive Lord Canning, the 
provisional Governor- General of India, was destined, while defending 
against desperate odds the capital of his province, to die at last a 
soldier's death, beloved as no Englishman in India has been beloved 
before or since. 

The younger brother, who had been born a soldier, but whom 
Providence or Fate had willed should be a civilian, was destined, 
-during his brilliant government of the Punjab, to do more in the hour 
of our utmost peril than any mere soldier could have done ; to tell 
some of the bravest generals that what they thought impossible he 
would make possible ; to call forth armed men, as it were, by thou- 
sands from the ground, and to launch them, one after the other, at 
that distant spot where his insight told him that an empire must be 
lost or won ; then, to rule the empire he had done so much to save ; 
and, last of all, to die in a ripe old age, surrounded by those most 
dear to him, and to be buried, amidst the regrets of a nation, in 
Westminster Abbey, honoured, perhaps, as no Anglo Indian has 
before been honoured ; a man who never swam with the stream, 
who bravely strove to stem the current, and, regardless alike of 
popular and of aristocratic favour, pleaded with his latest breath for 
what he thought to be right and just. To the biography of men 
whose lives have been so strangely checquered, of men who have not 
so much made history as become, as it were, a history in themselves, 
belongs of inherent right the highest interest and importance alike of 
history and of biography. 

The life of the elder brother has been long since written, in the 
greater part at least, by one who knew him well. It has fallen to my 
lot, under disadvantages which neither I nor my readers are likely to 
undervalue, to attempt the biography of the younger. During the 
more eventful period of Lord Lawrence's life, I knew him only, as 
most Englishmen know him now, from his deeds. But during his 
last few years, it was my happiness to know him well ; and I am 
speaking the simple truth when I say that, to converse with a man 
who had done such deeds, and yet seemed so utterly unconscious of 
them ; who had such vast stores of Indian knowledge, and yet gave 
them forth as though he were a learner rather than a teacher ; who 
was brave and strong and rough as a giant, but tender as a woman 

b 2 


and simple as a child, seemed to me then, and seems still, to have 
been a privilege for which, if one was not a great deal the better, 
one would deserve to be a great deal the worse. If I am able to de- 
scribe John Lawrence in any degree as I have often seen him, and as 
I trust a careful study of his voluminous correspondence, and the 
help, given freely to me in conversation by his relations, his friends, 
and his opponents, have revealed him to me, I shall not have written 
in vain. With greater skill, with much greater knowledge, his bio- 
graphy might, undoubtedly, have been written by one and by another 
who, unlike myself, had known him throughout his life, and who have 
perhaps a knowledge of India only less than John Lawrence himself ; 
but I venture to think that it could scarcely have been written by 
any one with a keener sense of responsibility or with a more genuine 

And here, once for all, let me remark — and then I will, as far as 
possible, dismiss the biographer to the place which, in any good 
biography, he ought to hold — that the spirit in which I have endea- 
voured to study my subject is not the spirit of one who fears the simple 
truth. John Lawrence was nothing if he was not truthful j he was 
transparent as the day, and my highest aim has been to render to so 
'heroically simple' a character that homage which is its due — the 
homage of unalloyed truth. So far as I have been able to avoid it, I 
have toned down nothing ; I have exhibited his character in all its 
lights and shades. The life of Lord Lawrence could not have been 
lived by any such perfect, by any such unexceptionable, I might add 
by any such insipid characters, as it is the delight of many bio- 
graphers to portray. If it be true, as one who was not likely to feel 
much sympathy for Lord Lawrence's character has observed, that 
'great revolutions are not made by greased cartridges,' much less is it 
true that John Lawrence could have done one half of what he did 
had he regulated his life by conventional standards, or had he known 
how to adapt his opinions and his practices to those which were most 
in favour at the hour. If John Lawrence had, in his best days, the 
strength and the courage of a giant, happily, for the interest of his 
biography, he had also something of the rough humour, of the 
boisterous pranks, of the wild spirit of adventure which we usually 
associate with the Norwegian Troll. He always said, as the letters 
I shall quote will abundantly show, exactly what he thought. He 
always acted — as every action of his life will prove — exactly as he 
spoke. He raised against himself, as every strong ruler, as every 

i8ii-29 EARLY LIFE. 5 

vigorous reformer, as every great man must inevitably do, not a few 
enemies ; he attached to himself, by the self-same processes, and for 
the self-same reasons, troops of most devoted and most loyal friends. 
Those, then, who would see John Lawrence not as he was, but as, 
perchance, they think he ought to have been, must go elsewhere. 
The rugged lineaments and the deep furrows of his grand countenance — 

For his face 
Deep scars of thunder had entrenched, and care 
Sat on his faded cheek, but under brows 
Of dauntless courage — 

are a picture, which he who runs may read, of the grand and rugged 
character which lay beneath it, and which it has been my highest aim 
to strive faithfully to reproduce. 

The father of John Lawrence was just such a man, and had lived 
just such a life, as might have been expected of the father of such a 
son. His life had been one continuous struggle with an unkind fate. 
Hairbreadth escapes, moving accidents by flood and field ; brave 
deeds innumerable, often handsomely acknowledged by his superiors, 
but requited scantily or not at all ; the seeds of disease sown by ex- 
posure and by his many wounds ; the prolonged pinch of poverty ; 
a keen sense of slighted merit, and a spirit naturally proud, yet com- 
pelled to stoop to ask as a favour what he felt to be his right, and to 
remind his employers of deserts of which they should rather have 
been the first to remind him : these and other elements of the kind 
go to make up the tragedy of his hard and weather-beaten life. He 
was fortunate in one thing only, that he had sons whose deeds were 
destined to be better requited than his had been, and whose lives, 
enshrined in the memories of their grateful countrymen, have com- 
pelled, and, it may be, will, to all future time, compel them, to inquire 
what manner of man was the father from whom they came. 

Sir Herbert Edwardes, in his life of Sir Henry Lawrence, has 
preserved the long roll of Alexander Lawrence's services, recorded 
chiefly by his own indignant pen. It is unnecessary, therefore, here 
to do more than glance at them. Left an orphan, at the early age 
of ten, to the care of his sisters at Coleraine, Alexander Lawrence, 
impatient of restraint and athirst for adventure, went off in his seven- 
teenth year, without a commission, as a volunteer to India. It was 
four full years before he was allowed to purchase the commission 
which his merits had long since won. But in those four years he 


had managed to see as much active service in the field and to receive 
as many hard knocks as would have entitled him, nowadays, to hasten 
home to receive a dozen swords of honour, and a dozen addresses 
of congratulation at a dozen public dinners, As a lieutenant, he 
fought and distinguished himself near Seringapatam, at Cochin, at 
Colombo, at the Canote river, and in the battle of Sedaseer Finally, 
at the famous storming of Seringapatam, he had a full opportunity 
of showing the stuff of which he was made. 

On May 4, 1799, ^ e volunteered, with three other lieutenants, to- 
lead the forlorn hope at the storming of Tippu Sultan's famous 
capital. Of these four, he was the one survivor, and it was not his 
fault that he was so. When he reached the top of the glacis he 
received a ball in his arm, which he carried with him to his grave. 
But observing that his men were standing still to form and fire when 
they ought to have been rushing in, he ran forward, wounded as he 
was, 'from right to left of the rear rank of the forlorn hope, hurrah- 
ing to them to move on ' When this had no effect, he ran through 
their files to the front, calling out, ' Now is the time for the breach ! * 
On reaching the foot of the breach, he received a second ball, which 
carried off one finger, and shattered another into several pieces. 
But, even so, he did not give in till he had seen his men carry the 
breach. Then, fainting from loss of blood, he fell down where he 
was and lay scarcely sensible, under the fiery mid-day sun of 
May, till one of the soldiers of his own regiment, when the fighting 
was over, came strolling over the spot, and, recognising the uniform 
on what he supposed to be a dead man, turned his body over. Seeing 
who it was, and observing that there was some life ' in the old dog 
yet,' he carried him off, as best he could, on his shoulders to the 
camp, swearing, as he toiled along, that he would not do as much for 
any other man of them. 1 

It is unnecessary to follow further his military career. In one 
of his earlier campaigns, by lying on the wet ground at night, he had 
caught a fever, which gave him, at intervals, throughout the rest of his 
life many rough reminders ; and, in 1809, he returned to England 
after fifteen years' hard service, broken down in health and still only 
a regimental captain. His merits procured him one or two appoint- 
ments in England, and, as Lieutenant-Colonel of a veteran battalion 
at Ostend in 18 15 he must have been within earshot of the cannon- 
ade at Waterloo ; a privilege exasperating enough to the man who 

1 Life of Sir Henry Lawrence^ by Sir Herbert Edwardes, vol. i. pp. 4-6. 

1811-29 EARLY LIFE. 7 

had stormed the breach at Seringapatam, and now in vain petitioned 
to be sent to the front. When, at last, he was driven to sell his 
commission for fear that, if he died, as then seemed likely, the price 
of it — the only worldly property he possessed — would be lost to his 
family, he obtained a pension of 100/. a year for his wounds, a pit- 
tance which, as he grimly remarked, would do little more than pay 
his doctors ! This pension, it is pleasant or painful to add, was, not 
without frequent petitions from himself, afterwards considerably in- 
creased, and the old hero did not die until he had sent forth in suc- 
cession five sons, all of the same sterling metal as himself, to the 
country to which he had given his life. 

4 If you are ever brought before a court-martial, sir,' he said some- 
what sternly to his son George St. Patrick, when leaving England, a 
man afterwards known to Sikhs and Afghans alike as a model of cool 
courage and chivalrous honour — 'if you are ever brought before a 
court-martial, sir, never let me see your face again.' With greater 
pathos and with equal truth might the tough and travel-worn veteran 
have addressed each one of his sons as he sent them off to the 
country which had proved so cruel a step-mother to him, in the 
words that Virgil puts into the mouth of the Trojan warrior — 

Learn of your father to be great, 
Of others to be fortunate. 

One incident only of his life in England requires to be mentioned 
here. In the year 1809, shortly, that is, after he returned from 
India, he became Major of his regiment, the 19th Foot, which was, 
then or soon afterwards, quartered at the small town of Richmond, 
in Yorkshire, and it was while he was living here, on March 4, 181 1, 
that John Laird Mair, the sixth of his sons and the eighth of his 
children, was born. What wonder that, some fifty years later, when 
Sir John Lawrence was returning home after the Mutiny, with his 
honours thick upon him, thinking, as well he might, that his career 
was over and that he had earned his repose, he told a trusted friend, 
with a tinge of sadness, that one of his first visits would be to the 
place which had given him birth? What wonder, either, that the 
accident of his birth at an English town tempted more than one 
English statesman in the first burst of the national grief at Lord 
Lawrence's death to claim the great Scoto- Irishman as, in part at 
least, their own, and to point out in eloquent language that he had 
combined in his person the best social and moral characteristics of 


the British Islands — Irish boldness, Scotch caution, and English 
endurance ? 

But what of John Lawrence's mother ? What was her character, 
and what share had she in the moulding of her son ? Here again 
we are not left to surmise or inference alone. For Sir Herbert 
Edwardes quotes an account of her given him in after years by * one 
of her sons,' whom I have no hesitation in pronouncing, from internal 
evidence, to have been John Lawrence himself. ' I should say,' he 
writes, ' that, on the whole, we derived most of our metal from our 
father. Both my father and mother possessed much character. She 
had great administrative qualities. She kept the family together, and 
brought us all up on very slender means. She kept the purse, and 
managed all domestic affairs. . . . When I was coming out to India, 
my poor old mother made me a speech somewhat to the following 
effect : — "I know you don't like advice, so I will not give you much. 
But pray recollect two things. Don't marry a woman who had not a 
good mother, and don't be too ready to speak your mind. It was the 
rock on which your father shipwrecked his prospects." ' 

One or two points call for notice here. The mother who spoke 
thus was a Knox, the daughter of a Donegal clergyman, but de- 
scended from the Scotch reformer. She prided herself on her 
descent ; and simple, thrifty, homely, God-fearing as she was, her 
relation to the reformer was not that of blood alone. She possessed 
that sound good sense and that steady perseverance which marks so 
many of the Scotch settlers in Ulster. If John Lawrence was right 
in supposing that he owed ' most of his metal,' most, that is, of his 
courage and his military instincts, of his iron resolution, and his love 
of adventure, to his father, it is probably not less true, whether he 
knew it or not, that he owed his shrewd common sense, his hatred 
of ostentation and of extravagance, and the vein of deep religious 
feeling, which displayed itself specially in his later life, but underlay 
the whole of it, to his mother. The influence of a mother who could 
follow uncomplainingly from youth to age the fortunes or misfortunes 
of her somewhat impracticable and wayward husband, who could rear 
a family of twelve children on the scantiest means, and, wandering as 
she was obliged to wander from place to place, could yet hold them 
together and give them something in each successive residence which 
they could look upon as their ' home,' is not to be measured by its 
immediate or ostensible results. Men rarely understand — perhaps 
they are incapable of understanding — the amount of patient endur- 

i 811-29 EARLY LIFE. 9 

ance, the thousand rubs and annoyances, which a long-suffering wife 
or mother bears, and bears in silence, that the current of the family 
life may flow smoothly on. When she succeeds, her efforts, as likely 
as not, pass unnoticed ; they are lost in her success. Nor would 
she wish it otherwise. Where she fails, as fail sometimes she must, 
on her falls the blame. But the influence of such a woman is a 
living influence notwithstanding. It is felt, not seen ; unacknow- 
ledged, perhaps, but well understood. It pervades the home life ; 
nay, when she is removed by death, it is found to have made the 
home itself, and it survives, henceforward, as the genuine under- 
current in the lives of all those who have been happy enough to have 
been brought within its sphere. One such influence — the most 
sacred and most cherished of all memories— it may have been the 
lot of one or another among my readers to have known, and some 
such influence, the same in kind, though not certainly in degree, I 
gather from the letters which have come into my hands, was that of 
Letitia Knox. 

Not that her character was especially lovable or tender, or that 
the home she made would, now-a-days, be called a genial or a happy 
home. The domestic management seems to have been hard and 
unyielding. There were no luxuries ; hardly even were there any of 
the comforts of life. It could not have been otherwise. The old 
Colonel's very select library, consisting chiefly of his Josephus and 
his Rollin, was not such as to supply food for young minds which 
were either inquisitive of historical fact like that of John, or full of 
imagination and sentiment like that of Henry Lawrence. More 
pleasant than the Colonel's library must have been the stories of his 
adventurous life, told to his children during their country walks. 
More pleasant still must have been the nursery, where ' old nurse 
Margaret ' ventured, in the children's interest, to break the hard-and- 
fast rules of diet laid down by the higher authorities for the children's 
good. Pleasantest of all must have been the gentle influence of that 
1 Aunt Angel ' who, for many years, had her home with the Law- 
rences, and whose room was the favourite resort of the whole family 
— one of those beautiful spirits which has learned early in life to 
sacrifice itself, and is able at last to find its own happiness in nothing 
but in that of others. 

Portraits of Alexander Lawrence and of his wife still remain, and, 
apart from the interest attaching to their features as the parents of 
their children, each has a touch of pathos or romance peculiarly its own. 


In the miniature of the brave old veteran which belongs to Sir 
George Lawrence, his eldest surviving son, besides the deep lines on 
the face which are a distinguishing mark of the Lawrence family and 
which are now known to the world in the features of the subject of 
this biography, may be noticed, on the right cheek, the traces of a 
deep sabre-cut received in one of his earlier engagements, while the 
mere fragment of a right hand remaining to him recalls the stormer 
of Seringapatam. 

The portrait of the mother is larger, and is in the possession of 
her younger son, General Richard Lawrence, a man whose prompti- 
tude and valour, as I shall hereafter show, did us good service in the 
Mutiny, alike at Sealcote and at Lahore. Simple in her life, and 
dependent in her old age upon ' the Lawrence fund,' contributed by 
her sons, she steadfastly resisted all the entreaties of her family that 
she would have her portrait taken. Perhaps, she thought it a waste 
of money ; perhaps, in the eyes of a descendant of John Knox, it 
savoured of vanity or ostentation. But what she declined to do for 
her children, she was willing and anxious that they should do for her. 
So the daughter sat down close by her mother's side. The painter 
worked away, and the ruse was not discovered till the portrait was 
well finished, and revealed, to the surprise of the aged mother, the 
features not of her daughter, but of herself. It was a truly pious 
fraud, and was duly acquiesced in by the old lady. There she sits, 
bolt upright, facing full the painter or the spectator, prim and neat, 
serious and matter-of-fact, with a high-crowned cap, a wide collar, 
and a shawl pinned neatly at the shoulders, as was the fashion of her 
younger days — for she never changed fashion with the changing times 
— her knitting in her hand, while she herself is absorbed in her work, 
and is quite unconscious of the fraud that is being played upon her 
by the man whom she is looking full in the face ! 

It is almost a truism, that it is a happy thing for all concerned if, 
in a large family of brothers and sisters, a sister happens to be the 
eldest. If she is worthy of her place, her influence moulds, softens, 
checks, refines, elevates. She forms a common centre round which 
the other members of the family revolve. If they are able to agree 
in little else, they agree in their trust in her. Such was the lot of the 
Lawrence family. The eldest son died at the age of three years, the 
very day on which Letitia was born, as though the brother would 
make room for the sister, and worthily she filled her place. She had 
the courage and force of command of the most famous of her 

i8ii-29 EARLY LIFE. n 

brothers, but she combined with it much of the tenderness and of 
the softer and subtler influences of woman. She belonged not to 
that type of woman, a type all too common, who pride themselves on 
their influence over men, and, content with it, reserve for their own 
sex what is unattractive and unlovely. Such a woman would have 
been as hateful to Letitia herself as to her brothers. Her sisters-in- 
law, some of whom were women of marked character as well as gifted 
with rare charms, owned her sway, and grudged not the influence 
which she retained, as of right, over her brothers to the end. She 
was the adviser and guide of the whole family. Her will was law, 
not so much because it was a resolute will as because she never 
sought her own. To her the strongest-minded of her brothers came 
for advice, as men came to Ahithophel of old, as though they would 
1 inquire of the oracle of God.' She thus, in large measure, as we 
shall hereafter see, shaped the destinies of her brothers' lives. In 
their intercourse with her, their rougher and more tempestuous side 
seems altogether to have disappeared. They told her every diffi- 
culty, shared with her every joy and sorrow, and corresponded with 
her in the most intimate and unrestrained intercourse until her death. 
What Henry Lawrence felt towards her and what her influence 
over him was like, is apparent to those who have read the letters 
which passed between them, and which have been quoted so abun- 
dantly by Sir Herbert Edwardes. John Lawrence, in like manner, 
kept up a correspondence with her throughout his life, crammed as 
it was with multitudinous cares and multifarious occupations, till 
death came between them. What he, too, felt towards her is clear 
from the remark which, in the bitterness of his soul, was wrung from 
him when he heard of her death, that he would never have gone to 
India, as Viceroy had he thought that he would never see her again. 
The letters which passed between him and her, and which, up to 
that time, had been religiously preserved by each, were deliberately 
destroyed by the survivor on his return from India, He objected — 
as who in his heart of hearts does not object ? — to the publication of 
essentially private letters But what the loss has been to the 
biographer in attempting, with such materials as are at his disposal, 
to do justice to the inner and gentler side of Lord Lawrence's 
character, the few letters to her which have accidentally come into 
his hands too surely show. Could they have been published with a 
clear conscience, they would have shown by themselves that John 
Lawrence was as tender as he was strong. The loss, I repeat, to the 


biographer is incalculable ; but, at least, he is saved, in this instance, 
one of his greatest difficulties — the task of deciding, where the 
correspondence is so sacred, what he will have the courage to publish 
or the heart to withhold. 

Such, in outline, was the home and such the home influences on 
the Lawrence children. It was a locomotive home enough. Rich- 
mond from the year 1809, Guernsey from 181 2, Ostend in 181 5, and 
Clifton thenceforward to the old Colonel's death ; these were the 
successive headquarters of the family from the time when Alexander 
Lawrence returned to England from India. In the year 181 3 occurred 
the first considerable break in the family. The three elder sons, 
Alexander, George, and Henry, were sent off from Guernsey to the 
1 Free Grammar School of Londonderry.' It was situated within the 
walls of the famous maiden fortress, close to the site of St. Augus- 
tine's church, and was under the care of their maternal uncle, the 
Rev. James Knox. It was then in a transition state, for, in the follow- 
ing year, its governors set an example which the governing bodies of 
the great schools of London are only now beginning to imitate. They 
authorised its removal from the interior of the city, and, with the 
active assistance of the then Bishop of Derry, Dr. William Knox, 
they re-erected it on a much more advantageous site. 

The spot selected was a hill in the suburbs, commanding a fine 
view of the historic fortress and of the steep banks and pretty country 
villas on the other side of the wide ship-traversed river Foyle which 
flows beneath, and has, since that time, given to the school the more 
ambitious name of Foyle College. It was a spot well calculated to 
stir the generous enthusiasm and the historical sympathies of the 
boys who were there brought up. But, over and above this, it pos- 
sessed, what must have been a special recommendation in the eyes of 
the stern old Colonel, in that his sons, being relatives of the head 
master, would be able to remain there the whole year through ! In 
other words, they were to have no holidays ; and, during the years 
that they remained there, I can find no trace of any unproductive 
expenditure of time or money on the journeys from Guernsey to 
Londonderry and back. 

Here, then, let us leave, for the present, the three elder brothers 
and see how it was faring meanwhile with their younger brother John. 
One or two facts only have been preserved about him. His sister 
Letitia used to relate that her motherly feelings had been first called 
out towards him when she found him, one day, crying violently and 

i8n-29 EARLY LIFE. 13 

discovered that a bit of hot coal had, somehow, lodged itself between 
his cheek and his baby cap-strings, and had inflicted a mark which 
was to last all his life. Another incident has a more melancholy 
interest when taken in connection with the calamity which befel him 
in the latter years of his life ; for it was the shadow of his cross that 
was to be. When he was about five years old, he had a bad attack 
of ophthalmia, which obliged him to be kept in a darkened room for 
a whole year. He would lie on a sofa, holding the hand of his sister 
or his nurse Margaret, while they read aloud to him. It was their 
care of him during this period which helped to call forth the devotion 
he ever afterwards felt for both ; and he would often say, in his later 
life, that he would be able to recognise any when and anywhere, by 
its feeling, the hand of either of his kind attendants. Some of his 
earliest recollections were associated with that eventful year which 
saw the hundred days' campaign and heard the roar of Waterloo ; 
and he tells us in a fragment of autobiography which has come into 
my hands, that, being thrown much upon his father's society owing 
to the absence of his elder brothers, he used to accompany him in 
his walks and listen to the stirring tales of his adventurous and ill- 
requited campaigns. It seems not to have occurred to the disap- 
pointed veteran that he might be arousing, by these very tales, 
within the boy's breast military hopes and aspirations which, one day, 
he might find it difficult to quench. For he had resolved, in the 
bitterness of his heart, that no son of his, if he could help it, should 
join the service which had served him so ill. 

One incident of John Lawrence's early life connected with his 
nurse Margaret, whom he loved so tenderly, I am able to relate from 
the recollection of his youngest daughter Maude, almost in his own 
words. He was fond of telling it, and few that ever heard Lord 
Lawrence tell a story were likely altogether to forget it : — 

One day, when I was about four or five years old and was staying 
with my father and mother at Ostend, my nurse Margaret was sent to 
market to purchase food for the day. She was sent with a 5/. note and was 
ordered to bring back the change. When I heard that my nurse was 
going to the market, I at once went to my mother to get permission to go 
with her. I was always fond of going out with her. She used to tell me 
all kinds of weird stories, which would fill me with a kind of awe for her. 
So I trotted along by her side, she amusing me as she went along. 
When we got to the market she purchased several things — at one stall a 
pair of fowls, at another vegetables, here bread or flour, and there some- 


thing else necessary for our household. Now it happened that though 
Margaret had often been there, and was well known, she had never had 
so much money with her before. This excited suspicion. She could not 
get her note changed, many people thinking she had not come by it fairly. 
At last there was a great hubbub, the shop-people accusing her, while 
she maintained her innocence. It was finally settled by their taking her 
before the magistrate to be examined. He asked her who she was, who 
was her master, and what was her occupation. She was dreadfully con- 
fused and frightened, and could hardly say a word. All she could get 
out was that her master was Colonel Lawrence and that his little boy 
was with her. On hearing my name, I began to feel very important, and 
thought I would now come forward and speak up for my nurse, so out I 
came from behind her— for I had clung to her all the time — and said in 
as loud a voice as I could manage, ' Why, Sir, it's our old nurse Margaret ; 
she is a very good woman, and all that she says is quite true ; I came to 
the market with her to buy our food, and papa gave her the money. I 
think that if you will let her go, you will do right, as my father knows 
that what I say is quite true.' The magistrate saw quite clearly now that 
everything was above board, so we were allowed to go home in peace. 
He said to me before we went away, 'Well done, little man ; you spoke 
up for your nurse bravely.' I was tremendously stuck up by this, and 
walked home with my nurse, feeling immensely important and thinking 
that I must now take care of Margaret, and not she of me. 

When the three elder brothers left Foyle College in 181 9, John 
was brought, for the first time, into the society of his brother Henry, 
that brother whose life and character were to be so closely connected, 
and yet to form so strong a contrast to his own. They went together 
to a Mr. Gough's school at College Green, Bristol. It was a day 
school, and John, a 'little urchin,' as he describes himself, 'of eight,' 
used to trudge along four times a day with unequal steps by the side 
of his brother Henry, ' a bony powerful boy ' of thirteen, over the hill 
which separates Clifton and Bristol. His sister recollects how, tired 
out by his walks and his work, he used, in the evenings, to lie at full 
length upon the hearthrug, preparing his lessons for the following day. 
One reminiscence of these school-days has already been quoted by 
Sir Herbert Edwardes in John Lawrence's own words, but it is too 
authentic a record not to find a place again here : — 

I remember, when we were both at school at Bristol, there was a poor 
Irish usher named O'Flaherty, and he had done something to offend 
the master of the school, who called up all the boys and got on the 
table and made us a great speech, in which he denounced poor 

i8ii-29 EARLY LIFE. 15 

O'Flaherty as ' a viper he had been harbouring in his bosom ; ' and he 
also denounced some one of the boys who had taken O'Flaherty's part as 
1 an assassin who had deeply wounded him ! ' I was a little chap then, 
eight years old, and I did not understand what it was all about ; but as I 
trotted home with Henry, who was then fourteen, I looked up and asked 
who the 'assassin' was who had * wounded' the master. Henry very quietly 
replied, ' I am the assassin.' I remember, too, in connection with this 
very same row, seeing Henry get up very early one morning (we slept in 
the same room) and I asked where he was going. He said to Brandon 
Hill to fight Thomas. Thomas was the bully of the school. I asked if I 
might go with him, and he said, ' Yes, if you like.' I said, ' Who is to be 
your second?' Henry said, 'You, if you like.' So off we went to Brandon 
Hill to meet Thomas, but Thomas never came to the rendezvous and we 
returned with flying colours, and Thomas had to eat humble pie in the 
school. Henry was naturally a bony muscular fellow, very powerful; 
but that fever in Burmah seemed to scorch him up, and he remained all 
the rest of his life very thin and attenuated. 

At such a school, discipline was not likely to be of the mildest 
kind, and the birch was probably the only instrument of moral 
suasion recognised. At all events, years afterwards, when some one 
asked Lord Lawrence whether there had been much flogging at his 
school, he replied, with grim satisfaction and Spartan brevity — and I 
have pretty well ascertained by the exhaustive method that the school 
must have been, not Foyle or Wraxall, but College Green — ' I was 
flogged every day of my life at school except one, and then I was 
flogged twice.' 

The time came for him to pass to a milder rule, and, in 1823, 
being then twelve years of age, he was transferred to his uncle's care 
at Foyle College. Almost coeval with the settlement of Ulster, this 
school has sent forth, from its earliest times, a long succession of dis- 
tinguished pupils ; and, probably, no school of its size ever contained 
within its walls at the same time a greater number of boys who were 
destined to become famous than were to be found at Foyle College 
during the period of which I write. Among them were Sir George 
Lawrence, the lion-hearted and chivalrous prisoner of Afghan and 
Sikh ; Sir Henry Lawrence, Sir John Lawrence, Sir Robert Mont- 
gomery ! Strange indeed that the last three of these men should 
have lived to rule the Punjab in concert, and play, by universal 
consent, a foremost part in that struggle of heroes which saved our 
Indian Empire 1 

I cannot find by careful inquiry among the few schoolfellows of 


John Lawrence who have survived him that, even now, looking back 
in the light of all that he has done, they saw, or think that they saw, 
any promise of his future eminence. He cast no shadow before him. 
Robert Montgomery then, as ever afterwards — alike in India and in 
South Kensington— his intimate friend and companion, only re- 
collects that he was ' determined and quick-tempered, and that in 
their walks together he used to entertain him with long stories of 
sieges and battles.' As a boy and as a young man, he read, as he 
says himself, ' much history and biography in a rather desultory way; ' 
and it is to this kind of reading that, man of action as he was through- 
out his life, he owed such traces of culture as he possessed or would 
ever have cared to claim. His life, from the time that he set foot in 
India, left no room at all for that leisure which is the necessary con- 
dition of high culture. But, remembering how crammed was his life 
with action, his historical knowledge was remarkable. He was 
accurately acquainted with the campaigns of the leading generals of 
ancient and modern times, and he could discuss them alike with the 
wide sweep of a theorist and with the minute knowledge of a 
specialist. I well remember, shortly before his death, being struck 
with the minute knowledge he showed in a casual conversation on a 
period of ancient history — the campaigns of Hannibal — of which I 
had, just then, been making a special study. Plutarch's ' Lives ' were 
always in his hands at school and at home, and, in after life, he used 
to say, half humorously, half seriously, that when he was in doubt in 
any difficult matter he would turn over its pages till he came to some 
suggestive passage. And these * sortes Plutarchianas ' seem to have 
been, on one or two critical occasions, of at least as much practical 
service as were the ' sortes Virgilianae ' to the scholar of the Middle 
Ages, or the haphazard opening of the Bible to the unlettered 
Christian of to-day. But I am anticipating. 

In any case, what an admirable hunting-ground would London- 
derry and its neighbourhood be to a boy who was fond of history, or 
who had any military instincts ! To roam along the ramparts of the 
heroic city amidst the quaint old culverins which, when the ammuni- 
tion was exhausted, hurled bricks covered with lead against the foe ; 
to visit the cathedral, crammed as it is with relics and trophies of the 
siege ; to climb its tower, whence the sentries peered with hungry 
eyes for those distant sails far down the Foyle which were to bring 
the promised aid, and which, when they at length appeared, did so 
only to disappear again ; to row to the spot where once frowned the 

i8ii-29 EARLY LIFE. 17 

terrible boom, which the ' Mountjoy ' and the ' Phcenix ' forced at 
last, bringing, to the starving garrison, food which they could hardly 
stagger forth to grasp in their skeleton fingers ; to stand in the 
pulpit where Ezekiel Hopkins, the craven bishop, preached sub- 
mission to the powers that be, and George Walker, the patriot hero, 
thundered resistance to the death ; to pass through the gate which 
the traitor Lundy would have throwfl open, and to visit the spot 
whence, Judas-like, when he was detected, he slunk down the wall 
into the outer darkness ; to join the 'prentice-boys when they cele- 
brate their feast of Purim, and still hang in effigy the Hainan of their 
race and creed ; — all this would invest with something of historical 
romance the everyday life of even the most matter-of-fact boys at 
school, even as, to this day, it kindles into wild enthusiasm the 
sober-minded Puritans of the surrounding country. 

The sports of the boys at Foyle College partook of the spirit- 
stirring and heroic character of their surroundings. There were 
about a hundred boys in the school, the boarders being chiefly the 
sons of the clergy and gentry of the adjoining counties ; the day 
scholars the sons of the citizens of Derry. The broad distinction 
often drawn by boys themselves between boarders and day scholars 
was emphasised at Foyle by a mimic warfare, carried on sometimes 
in the shape of single combats between champions representative of 
each party, sometimes between the collective forces of the whole. 

Here is an account of one of these Homeric combats, which 
I give in the words of Dr. Kennedy, a contemporary and brother-in- 
law of John Lawrence, who bore, as we shall see, no small part in it. 

A fortress of stiff clay had been constructed by the boarders on a 
hillock in a field behind the school. This fortress we regularly manned 
and relieved, at six hours' interval, throughout the day and night. Our 
night operations were hazardous in more ways than one, for the relieving 
force had first to escape the notice of the masters as they crept surrepti- 
tiously out of the windows of the school-house. The day boys, on their 
part, would sometimes rise from their beds in a body in the middle of the 
night and march rapidly from Derry to the assault. Many a fierce on- 
slaught and stubborn defence did our fortress witness beneath the light 
of the moon and stars. The weapons in use on these occasions were 
happily, not shelalahs, but cauliflower-stalks or, as we used to call them, 
'kale runts' — no bad substitute for shelalahs, when held by the lighter 
end and swung by a pov/erful arm. Nor let it be imagined that there was 
not a fair proportion of casualties, and that the list of wounded was not 
sufficiently imposing. My own career was cut short for a time, and very 

VOL. I. C 


nearly for all time, in one of these engagements. During a brilliant sally 
with my comrades from the fortress, my retreat was cut off, and I found 
myself resisting, in a hand to hand combat, two fellows each a head taller 
than myself. I had managed to reach the top of a high fence which gave 
me a great advantage, but behind me was a perpendicular fall of twelve 
feet on to a road. They called on me to surrender at discretion ; my 
answer was a blow with my kale runt on the head of one of my assailants. 
His companion caught me off my guard, and dealt me a blow on my legs 
which hurled me headlong on the road below. I had not then learned 
the knack of falling on my shoulders, and my skull came first in contact 
with the road. Fortunately it was equal to the occasion, and as to my 
neck, as my assailant remarked when I had recovered, it was not to be 
broken, it was reserved for a different fate. I escaped with a severe con- 
cussion of the brain. 

Such were the amusements which nerved the courage and braced the 
sinews of the Lawrence generation. 

It is illustrative of a savagery in schoolboy nature which has now 
nearly passed away, as well as of that mixture of national character- 
istics in John Lawrence to which I have already alluded, that, on first 
going to his English school at Clifton, he was nicknamed ' Paddy,' 
and received many kicks as being an Irishman ; while, on being 
transferred to his Irish school at Foyle, he was nicknamed ' English 
John,' and received many, probably a good many more, kicks, as 
being an Englishman. 

What the character of the education at Foyle College was like we 
are left to judge by the results, and by casual remarks in after life of 
the two brothers. That it was not a first-rate education is probable 
enough. ' For my part,' says Sir Henry Lawrence, ' my education 
consisted in kicks : I was never taught anything.' But boys are 
often apt, in perfect good faith, to attribute to their school what is 
due, in part at least, to their own shortcomings. John Lawrence, in 
the fragment of autobiography already quoted, probably states the 
case with greater fairness thus : ' At school and at college I did not 
work regularly and continuously, and did not avail myself of the 
opportunities which offered for securing a good education. But I 
worked by fits and starts. - , . When I went to college (Haileybury) 
I was a fair Latin and mathematical scholar, and a poor Greek one : 
but I had read a great deal in a desultory fashion, particularly of 
history and biography, and was generally, for my age, well-informed.' 

The religious training was more persistent than judicious. A 
kind-hearted sister of the head master used to take this part of the 

i8ii-29 EARLY LIFE. 19 

education under her special charge, and would send for the boys, 
one by one, from their play, every two or three days, that she might 
read and pray with them. The Lawrences, being nephews as well 
as pupils, got a double share of these attentions, and Sir Robert 
Montgomery well remembers how they used to slink by their aunt's 
room on tiptoe in hopes of escaping. It was a hope often dis- 
appointed ; for the door would open on a sudden and the vigilant 
aunt carry them off in triumph to her lecture. 

If the seeds of John Lawrence's deep religious convictions were 
sown now, it is certain that they long lay dormant, and it is probable 
that it was to a reaction from the forcing system of Foyle College that 
was due the most striking characteristic of his religious belief — its 
reserve and its unobtrusiveness. He seldom talked of religion, hardly 
ever said a word that was distinctly religious even to his intimate 
friends and relations. Yet everybody knew it was there. Levity 
and irreligion stood abashed in his presence. His religion seemed 
to be too sacred and too simple to admit of handling in common 
talk. It was a plant with roots so deep and so tender that he would 
not allow himself, still less any one else, to pluck it up to see how it 
was growing. 

In 1825 John Lawrence left Foyle, and went to finish the first 
part of his education at Wraxall Hall, a large rambling Elizabethan 
house in North Wiltshire, about six miles from Bath, which, with its 
inner court, its orchard, and several large gardens attached to it, 
gave ample room for the amusement of its inmates. And from a 
conversation which I have had with one of his few surviving contem- 
poraries — Mr. Wellington Cooper of Lincoln's Inn — I recall the 
following : — 

John Lawrence was tall and overgrown; I was much struck by the 
angular formation of his face. He was rough but kindly ; hot-tempered 
but good-natured withal. We had a rough enough life of it at school ; 
our bedrooms were so cold that the water used to freeze hard in the 
basins, and the doctor used to remark that it was no wonder that we were 
all in such good health, for every room had a draught in it. This was 
true enough. The window-frames of our bedroom were of stone, and an 
iron bar across the centre was supposed to prevent ingress or egress. 
Lawrence managed to loosen it so that it could be taken out and replaced 
without attracting observation, and when the nights were hot he would 
creep through it in his nightshirt and, reaching the ground by the help of 
a pear-tree which grew against the wall, would go and bathe in the 
neighbouring stream. We were fast friends, and in the kindness of his 

c 2 


heart he would have done anything for me. I was very fond of bird- 
nesting. A swallow had built its nest at the top of our chimney, and 1 
expressed a wish to get at it. ' I'll get the eggs for you,' said John, and 
went straight to the chimney, and began to climb up it inside. It soon 
became too narrow for his burly frame. ' Never mind, I'll get them yet,' 
he said, and at once went to the window. I and my brother followed him 
through it, and, climbing a wall twelve feet high, which came out from 
one end of the house and formed one side of the court, pushed him up 
from its summit as far as we could reach towards the roof. He was in 
his nightshirt, with bare feet and legs ; but, availing himself of any coign 
of vantage that he could find, he actually managed to climb up the wall 
of the house by himself. When he reached the roof, he crawled up the 
coping stones at the side on his knees, and then began to make his way 
along the ridge towards the chimney ; but the pain by this time became 
too great for human endurance : ' Hang it all,' he cried, ' I can't go on ! ' 
and he had to give it up. The kindness of heart which I remember in 
John Lawrence at school was vividly recalled to me by an anecdote I 
heard of him in much later life. A governess who was taking charge of 
his nieces at Southgate heard that her sister, who was in poor circum- 
stances, was ill in Paris with no one to look after her. Sir John at once 
wrote to the chaplain at the English Embassy to ask him to find her 
out, to transfer her to more comfortable quarters, and see that she had 
the best medical aid, at his expense. 

Another Wraxall schoolfellow, the Rev. F. B. Ashley, vicar of 
Wooburn, Buckinghamshire, adds one or two touches which should be 

Soon after Lawrence reached Wraxall he and I became great friends ; 
and when it was decided that I was to go to India, which was his desti- 
nation also, and we were given the same work, our friendship deepened 
and we became sworn allies. He was naturally taciturn, and I was 
equally so ; consequently we thought rather than talked together. Once 
I remember his coming to me with that grand brow of his knit with the 
deepest indignation, and saying that the master had suspected him of 
something gross. I saw how the matter stood, and said, 'You are inno- 
cent, but nothing can be done except to hold up your head and show you 
are incapable of such baseness.' My intercourse with him was a happy 
period of my schoolboy life. His family had come to live at Clifton, my 
native place, and we were always together in the holidays. One day we 
had a narrow escape. We were taking a walk in holiday time beyond 
the hot wells at Clifton, under the rocks, in the winter. When we reached 
St. Vincent's, where is now the suspension bridge, we were seized with 
the rather mad idea of climbing to the top. The ground was covered 
with two or three inches of snow, and before we got very far our hands 

i8n-29 EARLY LIFE. 21 

became painfully cold as we grasped at the rocks and tufts of grass m the 
crevices. Soon they were quite benumbed. We tried to look back, but 
it was impossible to return. We glanced at each other and then made a 
vigorous push for it, continually looking to see if we had hold, for we 
could feel nothing, our hands being completely numbed. We arrived 
somehow at the top, gave rather a solemn look at each other, and without 
making a single remark proceeded on our walk. 

The boy who thus held his tongue and thought in silence was the 
1 father of the man ' who, as we shall see hereafter, when a telegram 
arrived reporting the outbreak of the Mutiny, spoke not a word, 
either then or on the whole of that day, to the friend and high 
official who was with him, but consumed his own thoughts in silence, 
estimating the full gravity of the crisis and pondering the methods by 
which he could meet and overcome it. 

In 1827 came the turning point of John Lawrence's life. John 
Hudlestone, an old friend of the family who had risen to high office 
in the Madras Presidency, had, on his return to England, become a 
director of the East India Company and a Member of Parliament ; 
and the influence and patronage which he thus acquired he used with 
a single eye for the benefit of those among whom the best years of 
his life had been passed. For two services in particular his name 
deserves to be gratefully remembered amongst them. It may, 
perhaps, be questioned which was the greater of the two. By his 
exertions in Parliament and elsewhere he did much to prepare the 
way for the abolition of suttee by Lord William Bentinck, and he 
sent the Lawrences to India. 

The three elder brothers, Alexander, George, and Henry, had 
already received from him appointments in the Indian army, and had 
gone off to India, the two former in the cavalry, the latter, for ' fear 
lest it should be said that no Lawrence could pass for the artillery/ 
in the more scientific branch of the service. It was now John's turn. 
But, to his surprise and disgust, the appointment offered to him was 
an appointment not in the army, but in the Indian Civil Service. 
His father had been a soldier before him ; so were his three elder 
brothers. The stories of his father's campaigns to which he had 
listened, the books of travel and of history which he had read, the 
associations of his Londonderry school, — all had combined to fill his 
mind with military aspirations, and now he would go to India as a 
soldier, or not go at all. In vain, did his father point to his scars 
and talk of his hard service and his scanty pension. In vain, did 


Henry Lawrence, who had just returned from India invalided from 
the first Burmese war, and disgusted, like most young officers of his 
energy and capacity, with the incapacity and the red-tapeism which 
seemed to block the way, appeal to arguments which were likely to 
be of more weight in his brother's eyes — the greater field for ability, 
for vigour, and for usefulness which the Civil Service afforded. 
John Lawrence stood firm : and, had there not been an influence at 
home more powerful than that of either his father or brother, it is 
likely that he would have stuck to his determination to the end, and 
India, when the time came, if she had gained a great general, would 
have lost a still greater ruler. 

How the matter ended I am able to relate in the words of an eye- 
witness, one of the earliest and latest friends of the Lawrences, who 
happened to be staying at Clifton when the knotty question had to 
be decided. The testimony which she gives incidentally to that 
paramount influence which, now and through all John Lawrence's 
life, moulded and stimulated him, will be observed. * 

John Lawrence's eldest sister (says Mrs. B ) was an extraordinary 

woman : strong of mind and of will, quick in apprehension, yet sound 
and sober in judgment, refined and cultured, with a passionate enthu- 
siasm for all that was ' pure and lovely, and of good report.' In a word, 
hers was a nature possessed by the highest qualities of her soldier brothers, 
in combination with feminine gentleness and goodness. She had enjoyed 
varied advantages in the society in which her lot was occasionally cast. 
At the house of Mr. Hudlestone, among other distinguished men, she 
had often met Wilberforce and the Thorntons, and had quietly drunk in 
their wit and conversation from the sofa to which, as an invalid, she was 
long confined. Perhaps her brother Henry, who more nearly resembled 
her in character and disposition, was most amenable to her influence ; 
but John, too, though the greater independence of character manifested 
in his after life was early developed, cherished what might be called, 
without exaggeration, a boundless reverence for all she said and thought. 
In the present stern conflict between duty and inclination the family 
c oracle ' was lovingly resorted to. The scene in Letitia's room can never 
be forgotten by those who witnessed it. It may have been the crisis in 
John's life. He was seated at the foot of the invalid's couch in earnest 
debate about the perplexing gift. With all the vehemence of his ardent 
boy nature, as if to leave no doubt as to his own decided prepossessions, 
and, perhaps, with a bold effort to win the assent which he felt to be in- 
dispensable, he exclaimed, 'A soldier I was born, and a soldier I will be !* 
The prudent counsellor, however, advised differently. She 'urged him 
without hesitation to accept the boon, as affording in every way advan- 

i8ii-29 EARLY LIFE. 23 

tages unknown to the military life. Other influences no doubt conspired 
with hers to induce him to make what was, to his own personal feelings 
and aspirations, a great self-sacrifice, but it was to Letitia's calm advice 
and good judgment that he reluctantly but bravely yielded. She may be 
said, indeed, to have turned the scales, and thus in a measure determined 
an illustrious future. 

Dean Merivale, the distinguished author of the ' History of the 
Romans under the Empire,' is said to boast that he, in truth, saved 
India, though he never saw it ! He may well do so ; for he was 
offered and declined the nomination to Haileybury, which, on his 
refusal, fell to John Lawrence. To Haileybury, accordingly, John 
Lawrence went, while Ashley, his Wraxall friend, had to go to 
Addiscombe without him. The East India College at Haileybury, 
whatever may have been its shortcomings, did a noble work in its 
day, and one for which, as it appears to me, no adequate substitute 
has yet been found. It gave an esprit de corps, and a unity of 
purpose, it laid the foundations of lasting friendships, and stimulated 
a generous ambition among those who were about to be engaged in 
one of the grandest tasks which has fallen to the youth of any country 
or any age. It was then in good hands. Dr. Joseph Hallet Batten, 
Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and an excellent classical 
scholar, as well as a high wrangler, was the Principal, and with him 
worked an able staff of professors. Among them were the Rev. C. 
W. Le Bas, who was dean and professor of mathematics ; the Rev, 
Henry Walter, who had been second wrangler, professor of natural 
history and chemistry, one of the cleverest and most genial of men ; 
W. Empson, who had lately succeeded Sir James Mackintosh in the 
professorship of law, and was afterwards to become son-in-law to 
Francis Jeffrey, and editor of the ' Edinburgh Review,' and the Rev. 
T. R. Malthus, the celebrated political economist, who was professor 
of that science and also of history. Among the Oriental staff, to 
whom the students were indebted for such knowledge of Arabic, 
Sanscrit, Persian, Hindustani, Bengali, Telegu, as they could pick up 
in the scanty time afforded for the learning of those languages, should 
be specially mentioned Mirza Ibrahim, an accomplished scholar, and, 
in every point of view, a remarkable man. 

It will readily be believed that so distinguished a staff of professors 
drew to Haileybury as visitors some of the best known men in the 
country, and the house of Malthus, in particular, was the resort of 
philosophers and statesmen from all parts of Europe. On the other 


hand, it seems pretty clear that the professorial staff was too good for 
the material on which it had to work — youths of from sixteen to 
eighteen years of age. They sometimes lectured over their pupils' 
heads, and, in India, it was a common remark among thinking civilians 
that the Haileybury course would have been as invaluable as it would 
have been eagerly sought after, if only it could have been offered to 
them at a later period of their career. 

John's elder brother, Henry, accompanied him with parental care 
on his first visit to the College, on July 22, 1827, and, anxious and 
energetic as usual, walked up and down the library with him, busily 
explaining some rather recondite matters which he thought might be 
useful in the impending examination. But John was less eager to 
receive than Henry to impart information, and an anxious parent, 
observing what was passing, begged Henry to transfer his attentions 
to his son. Henry complied. The questions which he discussed 
were duly asked in the papers which followed, and to the help thus 
given his grateful pupil attributed his success in the examination. 
John, on his part, took a respectable place, but nothing more. 

At that time, the demand in India for young civilians was so great 
that the usual period of residence at Haileybury — four terms, or two 
years — was reduced by half, or even more, provided the candidate 
was eighteen years of age, and was able to pass the necessary examina- 
tions 'with distinction.' This latter condition John was able to fulfil 
at the end of his first year ; but, being only seventeen, he was com- 
pelled to remain at Haileybury a second year, and to see some twenty 
of his contemporaries pass out before him. During these two years 
he was ' neither very idle nor very industrious.' He managed to gain 
some prizes and medals, but not in such numbers as to attract the 
attention of those about him, or in any way to indicate his brilliant 
future. In his second term, he carried off the prize for history and 
another for his knowledge of Bengali. In his third term, he won 
another prize for Bengali, and was second in political economy. In 
his fourth and last term, he gained a third prize for Bengali — a 
language of which the future Punjabi was not destined to make much 
use — and the gold medal for law. The highest immediate aim of an 
industrious and ambitious Haileybury student was to pass out the 
first of his term to his own Presidency, a distinction gained by Charles 
Trevelyan about two years before. John Lawrence passed out third 
for Bengal, a position with which his friends and he himself were well 

i8n-29 EARLY LIFE. 25 

Among the more distinguished of his contemporaries at Hailey- 
bury were John Thornton, afterwards well known as secretary to 
James Thomason, the eminent Lieutenant-Governor of the North- 
west Provinces ; Edward Thornton, his brother, who was afterwards 
one of the ablest lieutenants of John Lawrence in the Punjab and 
was brought into the closest contact with him in the most critical 
period of his life, the dark days of 1857 ; Michael P. Edgeworth, 
also a Punjab Commissioner ; Martin Gubbins, the well-known 
Commissioner of Oude ; William Frere, who rose to be Member of 
the Bombay Council ; John Muir, who, at an early age, succeeded 
in winning a European reputation as a profound Sanscrit scholar ; 
Donald Macleod, one of Lawrence's most trusted assistants in the 
Punjab, and one of his dearest friends ; and, finally, J. H. Batten, 
son of the Principal, and afterwards well-known as Commissioner of 
Kumaon. Batten entered Haileybury on the same day as John 
Lawrence ; it was to him that John Lawrence specially applied his 
familiar term of ' comrade,' and it is to his aid that I am indebted 
for many of the details which I am able to give of the Haileybury 
of that day. 

There were few among those whose names I have mentioned who 
did not seem likely to distinguish themselves in India at least as much 
as John Lawrence. It is significant of the rather faint impression 
which he managed to make upon his contemporaries that the one 
fact which Edward Thornton is able to recall about him is his having 
often seen his somewhat remarkable form planted in the centre of the 
doorway leading from the quadrangle into the reading-room — a fact 
which he charitably inclines to interpret as implying that John 
Lawrence frequented the reading-room rather than the playing- 
ground. And it is, perhaps, more characteristic, and certainly more 
amusing, to hear that Batten, having struck up a friendship with the 
future Governor- General, was often told by his father, the Principal, 
that he was sorry to see him ' loafing about with that tall Irishman 
instead of sticking to the more regular students.' 

The pressure put upon those who were not disposed to work on 
their own account was never great. Lectures were over at one p.m. 
and the rest of the day was pretty much at the disposal of the students. 
The college was situated in the midst of an open heath where fine 
air was to be had for the asking. It was a country where it ' seemed 
always afternoon ' — ' a place,' says Sir Charles Trevelyan, c eminently 
suited for roaming and sauntering,' an occupation which seems to 


have fallen in with John Lawrence's tastes, but was often varied by 
visits, which were neither allowed nor forbidden, to the three neigh- 
bouring towns of Hertford, Ware, and Hoddesdon, which lay at an 
equal and easy distance from the college. Of John Lawrence's 
general characteristics and mode of life under such circumstances 
I am able to give a good notion in the words of his friend J. H. 

John Lawrence was, in appearance, rugged and uncouth, but his tall 
gaunt figure was sufficiently set off by an intelligent face and by his high 
good humour. He did not much affect general society ; and though, like 
others, he sometimes ' rode in the dilly ' to Ware or Hertford, he, on the 
whole, preferred mooning about the quadrangle and the reading-room, or 
wandering over the wild neighbouring heath, not uncommonly varying 
the game of fives at the college racquet-court by one of skittles or bowls 
or quoits behind the ' College Arms ; ' and the bad beer procured at this 
and neighbouring hostels was often recalled, not without regret, in after 
life by the exiles of Bengal, Madras, and Bombay. Lawrence, at that 
time, displayed a good deal of the Irish element, and he with his intimate 
friend Charles Todd — who died after a short career in India — first initi-. 
ated me into the mysteries sacred to St. Patrick's Day, Hallowe'en, the 
glorious, pious, and immortal memory of King William, the 'prentice-boys 
of Uerry, &c. By a stupid and inexcusable failure in Bengali, I managed 
to come out only sixth in my last term, while Lawrence was third. But 
it was a failure which enables me to record a characteristic anecdote. 
On that great final day of our Collegiate career, the 28th of May, 1829, 
my father, the Principal, was in high good humour, for, in spite of the 
disaster just described, I had delivered before a rather brilliant audience 
in the hall a prize essay on ' The Power of the Romans in the West com- 
pared with the British in the East ; ' and going up with pretended anger 
to John Lawrence, he said good humouredly, ' Oh, you rascal, you have 
got out ahead of my son ; ' to which, with ready wit, Lawrence replied, 
'Ah, Dr. Batten, you see it's all co?iduct', I fear Hallet has not been quite 
so steady as I ;' thus turning the tables on the Principal, who, to Lawrence's 
knowledge, had more than once remonstrated on my ' loafing about with 
that tall Irishman.' 

This brings me to another anecdote. When I was at home, on 
furlough, during what turned out to be the Mutiny year (1857), I went to 
Brighton to pay my respects to Mr. Le Bas, who had, long since, retired 
from the Haileybury Principalship, in which he succeeded my father. 
Those who knew the man, with his sharp peculiar voice, and his hand to 
his ear, can easily imagine the scene. He called out to me, ' Hallet, who 
is this John Lawrence of whom I hear so much?' to which I replied, 
'Don't you remember a tall, thin Irishman with whom I much consorted, 

i8ii-29 EARLY LIFE. 17 

who once kept an Irish revel of bonfires on the grass plot opposite to 
Letter C ; and whom you forgave on account of his Orange zeal and his 
fun ? ' ' Aha ! ' said the old dean, k I remember the man ; not a bad sort 
of fellow ; ' and then he burst into one of his fits of laughter, ending with 
the dry remark, ' But what has become of all our good students ? ' 

A letter from Sir Charles Trevelyan, who preceded John Law- 
rence at Haileybury by two years, adds a few touches which should 
be preserved : — 

The great charm of Haileybury was its thoroughly rural surroundings. 
I have known students stand at the college gate for half-an-hour together 
in the evening, listening to the nightingales in the adjoining woods. 
Bathing in the Lea in the Rye-House meadows was a great amusement 
in the summer ; while, in winter, I remember a match at football between 
the students of the two upper and two lower terms, which lasted over 
several days and, finally, had to be given up on account of the antago- 
nistic spirit it elicited. But in all seasons we used to take long walks in 
every direction. Athletic exercises were not in vogue in those days as 
they are now, and if these were less than the average at Haileybury, it 
was owing to the attractions of the open and pleasant country in which 
it was situated. The dissipation for which some of the students were 
most notorious was tandem-driving. I remember an occurrence con- 
nected with it which amused me at the time, and may be still worth 
repeating. Two students, driving a tandem, met Dean Le Bas on the 
road, and knowing that they would be sent for, they considered together 
what they would say. When the remonstance came they justified them- 
selves by saying, ' Why, sir, there is no harm in driving two horses 
abreast, and why then should it be wrong to drive them one in front of 
the other ? ' To this Le Bas whistled out in his peculiar way, with ready 
presence of mind, c Sir, a tandem carries dissipation on the face of it ; ' 
which is, perhaps, as much as could be said against it. 

It may be added that the excellent public school which has now 
taken the place of the old India College at Haileybury has done 
honour to itself by letting into the wall of the room C 54, which he 
formerly occupied, a brass plate with the words, ' John Lawrence, 
1829,' engraved upon it ; while, among the dormitories which have 
received the names of Haileybury students who afterwards dis- 
tinguished themselves in India, such as Trevelyan, Edmonstone, 
Thomason, Bartle Frere, and Colvin, or of distinguished Principals of 
the old college, such as Batten, Le Bas, Melvill, there is none which 
bears so illustrious a name— a name known, as Macaulay would say, 
to every schoolboy — as that which is called after the Chief Commis- 


sioner of the Punjab and the Governor- General of India — 'John 

At the close of each summer and winter term during his residence 
at Haileybury, John Lawrence regularly repaired to the house of Mr. 
Stevens, an old friend of the family, in Chelsea, for a week or ten 
days, before going down to his home at Clifton ; and in general har- 
mony with the account I have given of his college life is a second 
contribution of Mrs. B., a daughter of Mr. Stevens, and a life-long 
friend of John Lawrence. It is worth preserving, as it enables us to 
see something, even at this early period, of the inner and gentler side 
of his rough character. 

Every remembrance (says Mrs. B.) of the days and weeks he passed 
at our house at Chelsea is bright and pleasant. They are associated with 
a hilarity, indeed an exuberance of innocent glee, to which he himself, to 
his latest years, talking of our house as the ' elastic house,' loved to refer. 
He gave pleasure to every one. Even Henry, with his quiet reserved 
nature, regarded with quiet complacency the frolics of his young brother ; 
and a venerable Scotch lady, unaccustomed to such ebullitions, yet unable 
to resist their fascination, could venture on no severer stricture than — it 
was from her a compliment — ' He is a diamond, though a rough one.' 

No work was done while he was in the house, and the ' impositions,' 
inflicted for seme freak at the college, were handed over to the junior 
members of our household, who copied the necessary Persian character 
as best they could. I well remember the goodly number of prize volumes 
which he brought in his portmanteau from term to term. Speaking of 
these, he would say, ' They are Letitia's books ; they are all hers ; I 
should not have had one of them but for her. I work with her in my 
mind; she shall have every one of them.' The same declaration of 
brotherly gratitude was made in connection with the highest honour that 
Haileybury could bestow — the gold medal ; and when he got to Clifton, 
he was soon at the foot of the old couch with the grateful tribute : * Take 
them,' he said, ' they are all won by you.' 

: 829-34 2 9 


LIFE AT DELHI. 1 829- 1 834. 

We have now followed, with the help of such scanty records as are, at 
this distance of time, recoverable, the career of John Lawrence during 
the first eighteen years of his life. They are in no way especially 
remarkable. He has passed through three schools and the East India 
College at Haileybury without their leaving any very distinctive mark 
on him, or he on them. He has been crossed in the darling wish of 
his heart, to follow the profession of his father and three elder brothers. 
The one relative whom we have seen to possess an extraordinary 
influence over him has used it to shape — possibly, as it may have 
seemed to him to thwart — his destinies, and he leaves her behind him 
on the couch of an invalid. Strong, rough, warm-hearted, self- 
reliant, full of exuberant merriment, half-disciplined, and little more 
than half-educated, with the Irish element in his character, at this 
period, distinctly overshadowing the Scotch, he leaves his father's 
home hardly expecting to see him again, for a profession which he 
would never have sought, and for which he deems he has no special 
aptitude. Scores, nay, hundreds, of young civilians must have 
started for India with lighter hearts and with hopes apparently better 
founded than his. 

With him there went out his elder brother, Henry, who had 
already seen five years of India and Indian campaigning, and had 
been driven back to England before his time, fever- stricken and ' so 
reduced,' as an entry in his mother's diary puts it, ' by sickness and 
suffering, that he looked more than double his age.' John Hudle- 
stone, the kind friend who had given the elder brothers, one after the 
other, their appointments in India, had indeed consoled Henry's 
broken-hearte4 sister when he first left the parental home, by saying 
to her, ' All your brothers will, I think, do well, but Henry has so 
much steadiness and resolution that you will see him come back a 


general. He will be " Sir Henry Lawrence " before he dies.' But no 
kind friend, so far as I can discover, ventured on a like prediction 
with respect to John. That he would be 'Sir John Lawrence ' before 
he died would have seemed unlikely enough to the most sanguine of 
his friends, or the most appreciative of his Haileybury tutors. But 
that he would be a chief instrument in the saving of India, that he 
would be Governor-General, that he would die ' Lord Lawrence of 
the Punjab,' would have seemed as absurd and as incredible as the 
prediction in the nursery story to young Dick Whittington, that he 
would, one day, become Lord Mayor, nay, thrice Lord Mayor, of 

John Lawrence passed out of Haileybury in May 1829, but he 
lingered on some four months longer in England, that he might have 
the ' benefit of his brother Henry's society on his voyage out.' 
' Henry's presence in England,' he says himself, ' during the time 
I was at Haileybury, had been of considerable advantage to me. He 
went down to the first examination with me, and stimulated me to 
exertion while I was there.' It seems strange in these days of whirl- 
wind locomotion when a man is thankful to be allowed to leave his 
post in India, on short furlough, and, after spending a month with 
his friends at home, is back at his work again before his three months 
are up, to find that John Lawrence spent four months in England 
merely that he might have the ' benefit of his brother's company 
during the voyage.' But there were no steamers in those days. 
Worse still, there was no Overland Route, and the voyage to India 
round the Cape was sometimes a matter, as the brothers were to find 
to their cost, of five months and more. 

They sailed from Portsmouth on September 2, 1829, accompanied 
by Honoria, the sister who came between them in point of age. 
John suffered terribly, as he always did in later life, from sea-sickness. 
It was six weeks before he could leave his berth. At one time, as 
he often used to tell, his life was all but despaired of ; and a terrible 
hurricane off the south of Africa showed that the ' Cape of Storms ' 
was still true to its character. But in the intervals of comparative 
comfort the two brothers studied hard at the native languages, for 
which neither had a turn, but which each knew to be indispensable 
for a life of usefulness in India. They did not reach Calcutta till 
February 9, 1830, and here they separated, Henry, to join his 
company of Foot Artillery at Kurnal, a large military station to the 
north of Delhi, on what was then our north-west frontier j John, to 

1829-34 LIFE AT DELHI. 31 

complete in the College of Fort William such study of the native 
languages as was necessary before he could enter on his civil duties. 
It may be of some interest to remark here that, in the same year 
with John Lawrence, there went out to India two remarkable men — 
Alexander Duff, the first missionary of the Church of Scotland, who 
'set to work almost in the next street to him,' and Sir Henry Durand, 
who, some forty years later, was to become Foreign Secretary and 
afterwards colleague in Council of the young ' writer ' who would 
then have risen to be Governor-General. 

During the whole time that John Lawrence was in the College of 
Fort William he was more or less ill. The climate did not agree 
with him. He took little care of himself, and he was so much 
depressed in spirits that he thought seriously of returning to England. 
He has often been heard to say since that an offer of 100/. a year in 
England in those dark days would have taken him straight home. 
The society of the capital, with the brilliant carriages on its Mall, its 
morning and evening canters over the Maidan, its balls and its 
dinner-parties, so acceptable to most young civilians, seems to have 
had no charms for him ; and perhaps the rough, downright young 
Irishman, who then, as ever afterwards, cared nothing for appear- 
ances, would have made little way with the society of the capital. A 
pining for home and friends such as I have described, and an absolute 
detestation of India, has been no uncommon thing, even among 
those who, like John Lawrence, were destined afterwards to find the 
most appropriate field for their talents, and to rise to the highest 
eminence there. Not even ambition and the charms of a ' study of 
the native languages ' are proof against the depressing influences and 
enervating vapours of the City of Palaces at a time when the thermo- 
meter is standing at ninety degrees in the shade. Robert Clive, in 
sudden accesses of home-sickness, twice over, it is said, while he was 
a tenant of Writers' Buildings, at Madras, attempted to destroy 
himself ; and it was not until he had assured himself that the pistol, 
which had refused to go off, was properly loaded, that he determined 
to bear up against his depression, as a man reserved for something 
great. Charles, afterwards Lord, Metcalfe, for a whole year after his 
arrival in India, plied his father with piteous appeals to obtain for 
him the veriest pittance in England in exchange for the miseries of 
exile. So we need not be surprised if John Lawrence passed through 
a similar slough of despond. At last he managed to pass the 
necessary examinations in Urdu and Persian, of which latter language 


he remained ever afterwards a colloquial master ; and then, instead 
of applying for a post in one of the more settled and peaceful 
provinces of Lower Bengal, where the work would, comparatively- 
speaking, be one of routine, he was, at his own request, gazetted for 
Delhi. 1 This application, as we shall see, gave some slight intimation 
of the stuff of which he was made. There was now no more inaction, 
no more halting between two opinions. He had put his hand to the 
plough and there was no looking back. He shook himself, like 
Samson, and awoke to his work. From the present moment to the 
very end of his official life, we shall find no parallel to the inaction 
of the four months spent in England before leaving it for India, or to 
the depression which seems to have dominated him during the ten 
months he spent in Calcutta before embarking in his active work. 
There was, henceforth, no nervous looking forward to what might be, 
or backward to what might have been. To do the thing that lay 
before him, to do it thoroughly, to do it with all his might, not 
regarding the consequences and not turning either to the right hand 
or the left — this was, henceforward, the ruling principle of his life, 
and to that ruling principle who shall say how much of his success 
was owing? 

A breathing space of some months was usually allowed to young 
civilians, after passing their examination, before they were expected 
to be at their post But John Lawrence was off to his at once. The 
method of travelling usual in those days was the comparatively easy 
one of ' trek ' up the Ganges. But John preferred the more rapid 
mode of palanquin dawk, and managed to accomplish the distance of 
nine hundred miles in eighteen days. The motives which induced 

1 I have not thought it desirable or practicable, in a work which quotes so 
largely from documents of a bygone generation, and deals with events which 
ought to stereotype for ever, in the memories of Englishmen, the names of so many 
Indian places in the form in which they were then known, to attempt any accurate 
system of transliteration. It is difficult to a biographer of John Lawrence, steeped 
as he must necessarily be in the writings of his time, even to think of Delhi as 
' Dilhi,' of Ferozepore as ' Firozpvir,' of Cawnpore as 'Kahnpur,' of Lucknow as 
' Lakhnao.' To him the capital of the Moguls can never be otherwise than Delhi, 
and the capital of Oude must always remain Lucknow. I have, therefore, in the 
case of the more important names of men and places which occur repeatedly in 
the letters and life of John Lawrence, thought it best to adhere to the spelling of 
the time rather than to follow the more accurate system of spelling and of accen- 
tuation which has been adopted by a later generation. 

1S29-34 HFE AT DELHI. 33 

him to select the Delhi district as his first field of action are not far 
to seek. It was not that the work would be easy and straightforward, 
or the inhabitants tractable and submissive. On the contrary, the 
work was as arduous and exacting, and the inhabitants as turbulent 
and warlike, as could have been found within the Company's do- 
minions. But, for this very reason, it was likely to afford the best 
preparation for whatever might come afterwards. 

And now that we have followed John Lawrence to the great city 
which, with the surrounding district, is, for the next thirteen years, to 
prove so admirable a training ground for his great, but, hitherto, quite 
undeveloped capacities, and, some twenty-five years later, is to 
witness the crowning achievement of his life — its recapture from the 
mutineers — it will be well to take just such a brief retrospect of its 
history and antecedents as may enable us better to understand the 
extent to which the peculiarities of the place and the people acted on 
him, and his energy and determination reacted on them. 

Historically and geographically, Delhi is the most important city 
in Hindustan. Situated on the river Jumna, in the very centre of 
Northern India, it is brought, by the help of the Ganges, into which 
the Jumna flows, and of the vast network of canals which Mogul and 
English enterprise have spread over the country, into direct com- 
munication with almost every city of note between it and the Bay of 
Bengal. It stands on the direct line of advance into Northern and 
Central India from the passes of the Hindu Kush and the Suliman 
mountains — the only point of the compass, it should be remarked, 
from which an invasion of India need ever be seriously contem- 
plated. Its inhabitants, spirited, energetic, and fanatical, contrast 
equally with the soft and supple Bengali, on the one side, and the 
ferocious and haughty and untameable Afghan on the other. Alto- 
gether the spot seems marked out by Nature herself as that whereon,, 
once and again, the battle for the Empire of India would be lost or 
Avon. Its history and its traditions stretch right back to the fifteenth 
century B.C., when, under the name of Indra-Prastha, it was deemed 
worthy of a place in the Sanscrit Epic of the ' Mahabharata.' Since 
that time, on the same, or nearly the same, spot, city after city has 
been founded, has risen to opulence and power, or even to empire, 
and then has fallen by slow decay, or, as has more often happened, has 
been stamped out of existence by the heel of the destroyer. The 
debris of these cities of the dead cover an area of forty- five square 

vol. 1. d 


miles, and towards one end of this vast space rises the city of the 
living, the foundation of the Emperor Shah Jehan. 

Turk and Tartar, Persian and Pathan, Mogul and Mahratta, have 
swept down upon Delhi in ghastly succession, have plundered it of 
its wealth, massacred its inhabitants, levelled its buildings with the 
ground, or, again, have made it the seat of a long dynasty of kings, 
and lavished upon it all the magnificence and gorgeousness of the 
East. There is thus hardly a great name in the history of Northern 
India which is not, in some way, connected with Delhi, as founder 
or conqueror, embellisher or destroyer. In the eleventh century, 
Mahmud the Iconoclast, on his return to Afghanistan from his fre- 
quent incursions into India, adorned his palace at Ghuzni not less 
with the jewels of Delhi than with the sandal- wood gates of Somnath. 
In the twelfth, Mohammed of Ghor made it what, with few inter- 
missions, it has ever since remained, the capital of Mohammedan 
India, and planted upon its throne as his vassals the famous dynasty 
of ' Slave ' kings. In the fourteenth, Tamerlane, the arch-destroyer, 
plundered, depopulated, and destroyed it. It was at Delhi that 
Baber was proclaimed emperor, and at Delhi that Humayun was 
buried. The site of Delhi, Shah Jehan, the master builder of a whole 
dynasty of builders, the architect of those wonders of the world, the 
Pearl Mosque and the Taj Mehal, selected for the capital of his 
Empire, in preference even to that of Agra, and, rebuilding the city 
from the ground, called it after his own name ' Shah Jehanabad ' 
(a'r. 1656). In the eighteenth century Nadir Shah, the great Persian 
invader, treated its inhabitants and its movable wealth much as 
Tamerlane had dealt with them before him, and what little of revenue 
or power he left to its titular ruler was afterwards appropriated by 
the Mahrattas. The great Mogul became a mere puppet in their 
hands, and, in the beginning of the present century (1803), he passed 
under the gentler sway of that ' company ' of merchants who throve 
and trafficked and ruled in Leadenhall Street, but could, at their 
pleasure, command the services and unsheath the swords of generals 
as redoubtable as Clive and Coote, as Lake and Wellesley. 

When Lord Lake entered the city of the Moguls, after his sur- 
prising series of victories, he found the venerable emperor ' oppressed 
by the accumulated calamities of old age, and degraded authority, 
extreme poverty, and loss of sight, seated under a small tattered 
canopy, the remnant of his royal state.' But the English conquerors, 
touched, as they could not fail to be, by such a pitiable sight, treated 

1829-34 LIFE AT DELHI. 35 

Shah Alum with that respectful sympathy which, whatever their 
faults, they have seldom failed to show to fallen greatness. They 
gave him back his palace, one of the most splendid creations of 
Shah Jehan, and set apart extensive districts in the neighbourhood of 
the city for the proper maintenance of him and of his court. The 
management of these districts they wisely kept under their own 
control ; but a lac of rupees (10,000/.) — a sum which was afterwards 
considerably increased — was poured, month by month, into the lap 
of the blind and helpless old man. Within his palace, a building 
strong enough and vast enough to house an army as well as a court, 
he was to reign supreme. 

Less than this the English could hardly, with any show of justice 
or generosity, have done ; and yet it may be doubted whether even 
this was not more than the best interests of the venerable puppet 
himself, or of the miserable creatures who infested and disgraced the 
purlieus of his court, demanded. * The Vatican and a garden ' was 
indeed the ' irreducible minimum ' which the discrowned head of the 
Catholic Church could well have been expected to accept from the 
ruler of one of the most Catholic of nations. But a palace and the 
revenues of a palace left to an Eastern king, who has none of the 
duties and — owing to the protection guaranteed to him by a greater 
power from without — none of the salutary fears of royalty, is likely, 
as our dear-bought experience in India has proved again and again, 
to become a pest-house doubly steeped in debauchery and corrup- 
tion. It is a despotism, tempered neither by epigrams nor by assassi- 

But the English, in their generosity to the fallen king, went 
beyond even this. By a cruel kindness, which was more creditable to 
their hearts than their heads, they restored to the decrepit descendant 
of Tamerlane his titular sovereignty over the whole of the vast regions 
which had been conquered or claimed by his ancestors. True, it was 
only the shadow of empire that they gave him ; but, in the East, a 
shadow, a remembrance, a symbol, has often proved to possess more 
vitality, and to be more real even than the reality which it was sup- 
posed to represent. One or two of our wiser statesmen shook their 
heads, and tried by gradual encroachments insensibly to minimise the 
imperial pageantry. But their efforts were only partially successful. 
The first British Resident, a kind-hearted and generous man, con- 
tinued to approach this phantom of royalty with knee-worship, which 
the most supple of courtiers might have disdained to use in approach- 

d 2 


ing a European sovereign. Successive Governors- General or their 
representatives offered him nuzzurs, or presents, which, to the native 
mind in general, and, certainly, to that of the old king himself, must 
have suggested that he, and not they, was the paramount power in 
India. The current coin of the country continued to bear, not 
indeed the image — for that no good Muslim would allow — but the 
superscription and year of the reign of the Great Mogul. Native 
sovereigns looked upon themselves, nay even upon the English con- 
querors, rather as tenants-at-will than as proprietors, and felt insecure 
upon their thrones till the fountain of sovereignty had recognised 
their claim to their territories or their titles. And so Resident suc- 
ceeded Resident, Seton gave way to Metcalfe, Metcalfe to Ochterlony, 
and then Ochterlony to Metcalfe again, at the Residency house \ 
Shah Alum was succeeded by Akbar Shah in the palace, and Bahadur 
Shah expected, in due course, to succeed Akbar ; and, though some 
of the more obnoxious obeisances and privileges accorded to the 
Mogul were gradually lopped away, yet the fundamental mischief 
went on unchecked. 

If it be true that, during the anarchy which accompanied the 
break-up of the Mogul power, the imperial city had become the sink 
for the rascality of all the surrounding countries, it is equally true 
that now, under the aegis of the English protection, the imperial 
palace became the sink of the city. In the city itself, and in the 
adjoining country, English rule was rapidly introducing law and order 
and security for property, for honour and for life. But within the 
walls of the palace, though murder and torture may have been checked 
from fear of the Resident, there was the same dreary round of 
extravagance and profligacy, jealousy, and intrigue ; still the same 
miserable inhabitants, a motley crowd of panders and informers, 
concubines, and eunuchs. Nor was it possible for the Resident to do 
more than to enter a feeble protest against the libertinism to which 
the English Government itself had, with the best intentions in the 
world, given a charter. If the phantom of Mogul sovereignty became 
every day more contemptible, and the torch of the Mogul Empire 
seemed to be dying out with a last expiring flicker, it was not dead 
yet, and might, with that very expiring flicker, blaze forth into a con- 
flagration which would envelop the whole of India. So thought one 
or two of the wisest of our countrymen then ; and so, wise after the 
event thinks every one now. 

Such, then, were the antecedents and such the general condition 

1829-34 IJFE AT DELHI. V 

of the imperial city when, early in 1831, John Lawrence arrived as 
one of the ' assistants ' to the Resident ; and it is not difficult to infer 
from what I have already said how profound an influence the pro- 
fligacy of the court and the corruption of the aristocracy on the one 
hand, and the patient sufferings and the sterling qualities of the 
masses of the people on the other, must have had upon the whole of 
his subsequent career — at a time, that is, when it would be his no 
longer to obey but to be obeyed, no longer to observe but to act, no 
longer to chafe at abuses but to sweep them clean away. 

The town and district of Delhi had been placed, ever since the 
time of its conquest from the Mahrattas by Lord Lake, under the 
control of a British officer, who bore the title of ' Resident and Chief 
Commissioner.' The post was one which demanded and developed 
high qualities, and its varied duties were indicated by the unusual 
title borne by its occupant. It had twice been filled by Charles 
Metcalfe, who, fortified by the experience thence derived, was now 
rising, as John Lawrence was himself to rise from it, in later days, 
by rapid strides towards much higher dignities, and was not to die 
till he had been, in rapid succession, supreme governor of India itself, 
of Jamaica, and of Canada. 

The post of Resident of Delhi was, at that time, held by Thomas 
Theophilus Metcalfe, a younger brother of Sir Charles. The work 
was, partly, what is called in India ' political,' partly, administrative. 
The ' political ' duties of the Resident brought him, primarily, into 
contact with the Mogul and his palace, but they also made his 
influence felt over the vast range of country which lies between Malwa 
on the south-east and the Punjab on the north-west. They thus 
embraced those numerous states, the appanages of the oldest and 
proudest and most powerful Rajpoot chiefs, which, together with 
intervening tracts of desert, make up the district called by a geo- 
graphical fiction, as if it were a united whole, Rajpootana. They 
included also the ' protected Sikh states ' of Jheend, Puttiala, Khytul, 
and Nabha, which, with numerous smaller chieftainships, were inter- 
laced in a perplexing manner with the British territory. 

In his civil capacity as ' Commissioner ' in the purely British 
territory, the Resident had to keep order, to administer justice, to 
superintend the apportionment and collection of the revenue, and 
to develop, as far as practicable, the resources of a very imperfectly 
developed country. His assistants, who were four or five in number, 
usually lived, like the members of one family, in the Residency house 


or compound, and, after they had served their first apprenticeship, 
were liable to be employed in any of the various duties which belonged 
to the Resident himself. They thus managed, at a very early stage 
of their career, to combine the functions of magistrate, collector, and 

The Delhi district, happily for all concerned, was a non-regulation 
province. In spite of successive waves of foreign conquest which 
had swept over it, the native institutions had been less changed here 
than in almost any other part of India. The venerable village com- 
munities remained intact, and the cue of the English officers was, 
happily, not to destroy, but to preserve and make the best of them. 
That ' mystery of iniquity,' as it has been well called by Sir John Kaye, 
the law of sales for arrears of rent, had not been introduced into the 
Delhi territory, and justice was administered not so much by hard 
and fast regulations, as on principles of natural equity. It is thus 
not too much to say that every ' assistant ' to the Resident, owing to 
the variety of his work, the liberty he was allowed, and the sense of 
responsibility which was thus developed, enjoyed almost unique 
facilities for showing what was in him. 

Among the ' assistants ' in 1831 was Charles Trevelyan, who by 
his energy, his ability, and his fearlessness, had already, in his sub- 
ordinate capacity, made a great name. Amidst all but universal 
obloquy, he had struck boldly at corruption in high places, and at 
last, amidst all but universal appreciation, he had levelled it with the 
ground, never again, it is to be hoped, to rear its head. He found a 
kindred spirit in the newly arrived John Lawrence, whom he had 
himself been instrumental in attracting thither j and thus began a 
friendship which lasted without intermission for nearly fifty years, till 
death ended or put the seal to it. The two friends did not remain 
long together now, for Trevelyan was called off, in the following year, 
to Bhurtpore, while John Lawrence remained behind in the city with 
which so much of his career was to be bound up. 

The impression, however, made by the younger man, who had not 
yet done a stroke of professional work in India, upon the elder, was 
distinct enough, and has, after the lapse of some fifty years, in con- 
versation with myself, been thus vividly recalled : * When I first saw 
John Lawrence he was, in appearance, singularly like what he was in 
advanced life ; nay, he looked, in a manner, older than in after life : 
the lines in his face were even deeper. He had a hungry, anxious, 
look. He seemed to be of a mercurial disposition. 1 do not mean 

j 829-34 LIFE AT DELHI. 39 

that he had instability or the faults of the Irish character, but he was 
earnest and restless. For example, he was very fond of riding, and 
he always appeared to be riding at a hand gallop. Here was the 
foundation for a man of action. I did not seek for or detect any 
signs of what is ordinarily called " superiority " or greatness then, but, 
looking back now, I can see that what I did notice was capable of a 
much higher interpretation than I put upon it.' 

John Lawrence's first appointment under the Resident was that 
of ' assistant judge, magistrate, and collector ' of the city and its en- 
virons — over an area, that is, of some 800 square miles, and a popu- 
lation of about 500,000 souls. Of this total the city itself contained 
some 200,000, and with their narrow round of interests and occu- 
pations, and their petty crimes and quarrels, the work of the assistant 
magistrate would be principally concerned. The city population con- 
sisted of many different elements. The capital of Mohammedan 
India of course contained a large number of Indian Mohammedans, 
but the larger portion was composed of Hindus, with an admixture 
ot Sikhs and Afghans. 

The general insecurity of life and property at Delhi during the 
break up of the Mogul and the rise of the Mahratta power, had 
drawn thither, by a natural process of agglomeration, most of the 
stormy spirits of Northern and Central India. The criminal class in 
such a population would necessarily be large, and it was not unfre- 
quently recruited by a reinforcement of arch criminals from the sanc- 
tuary of the palace. Within that sanctuary the English magistrates 
were powerless. Slavery, polygamy, and concubinage — those in- 
separable adjuncts of Oriental despotism — reigned unmolested. The 
Sullateen, or princes of the blood, ' men who feared neither God nor 
man, and whom no one outside the palace would trust for a rupee,' 
revelled within it in extravagance and lust and infamy of every de- 
scription. Sometimes a pair of half-naked slave girls, with the marks 
of stripes upon their backs, would escape from the windows of their 
gilded prison-house, and the Resident or his assistants would have the 
satisfaction of declaring to the pursuing myrmidons of the palace, 
that, having once touched British soil, they were free. Within the 
palace all the offices and all the etiquette of the old Mogul court were 
still scrupulously preserved. Sometimes one of these dignitaries, for- 
getful even of the honour that reigns among thieves, would turn his 
sharp practices upon his brother ministers. On other occasions — as in 
an incident related to me by Sir Charles Trevelyan — they ventured to 


use the ill-gotten experience and facilities for crime acquired within 
the palace in the more extended field of the city. The titular Lord 
Chancellor, or his equivalent, had set up, outside the palace, a regular 
factory for forging deeds. It was an easy task, for he possessed, in 
virtue of his office, the entire series of seals belonging to the former 
Emperors and their chief officers. The existence of this factory was 
perfectly well known in the city, and even respectable men, when they 
found that the titles to their lands were disputed, resorted to it to get 
them set right by forgery. One day a vakil of the Raja of Bullub- 
ghur reported at the Residency that the ex-Chancellor was at that 
moment forging the grant of a village in his master's territory. The 
kotwal was sent with a posse comitatus to the place, and found the 
operation actually going on, and the ex-Chancellor, who had in his pos- 
session at least a hundred seals of former Hakims of Delhi, was 
condemned to five years' labour on the public roads. 

The capture of Delhi by the mutineers, twenty-six years later, 
has been to the history of the Delhi district, on a small scale, what 
the burning of Rome by the Gauls was to the whole course of Roman 
history. Nearly all the contemporary records of the times of which 
I am writing perished in the flames. But even in the absence of these, 
as well as of all private letters, knowing as we do how John Lawrence 
felt and acted in after times, we can easily imagine the zest with which 
he would have flung himself into adventures of the knight-errant 
kind when they came in his way — his rescue of a slave girl from her 
tormentors, or the arrest and punishment of a scoundrel born in the 
purple, the moment that he dared to carry his malpractices beyond 
the charmed circle of the palace walls. 

But the occupations of the assistant magistrate were not all of this 
exciting character, nor was his intercourse confined to the criminal 
classes. ' In those days,' says John Lawrence, ' many of the chiefs 
about Delhi still held houses and gardens in the city, to which they 
constantly resorted ; partly, to pay their respects to the representative 
of British power, and partly, to enjoy the pleasures and luxuries of 
social life. There were then living also in Delhi old men of rank 
and family, who had served in one capacity or other in the late wars ; 
men who had been employed in the irregular fashion under Sir Arthur 
Wellesley or Lord Lake, men who used to be fond of telling stories 
of those interesting times, and to whom the names of Mr. Seton, the 
first Resident, of Sir Charles Metcalfe, of Sir David Ochterlony, and 
of Sir John Malcolm were as household words.' Storytellers such as 

1829-34 LIFE AT DELHI. 41 

these found an excellent listener in John Lawrence, who, a still better 
storyteller himself, doubtless, often retaliated in kind ; and thus, in 
his very first post, gathered an amount of experience such as, in other 
parts of India, could only have been acquired very gradually. He 
thus came to know the family histories of the chiefs, their feelings 
and their wishes, their merits and their faults— a knowledge which 
afterwards stood him in excellent stead when he had to deal, on a 
wider scale, as responsible ruler, with dispossessed or discontented 
Sikh chieftains scattered over a newly conquered province. 

John Lawrence remained at Delhi for nearly four years, ' working 
regularly and steadily without any change or intermission.' Once 
indeed he joined a hog-hunting expedition given by Trevelyan on an 
extensive scale in some large tamarisk jungles on the banks of the 
Jumna ; and, once or twice, he paid hasty visits to his brother George, 
who was then entertaining, at his house at Kurnal, Henry Lawrence 
and the sister (Honoria) who had come out to India with them. On 
March 6, 1831, Henry had written from Kurnal to his sister Letitia 
at home, ' You may imagine how glad we are that John has got him- 
self appointed to Delhi. He is now within a few hours of us and in 
very good hands ; on my return to Kurnal at the end of the month 
he will come over.' And it is pleasant to read in a letter written to 
me, and dated 'February 18, 1880, Brighton,' from Honoria (now 
Mrs. Barton), the sister concerned, how these anticipations of the 
family were fulfilled : ' During the fifteen months that we lived with 
our brother George at Kurnal, John occasionally visited us, and made 
us very happy. He seemed quite satisfied with his position at Delhi, 
and liked his work, and we knew that he had warm friends in the 
Commissioner and his family.' It may be mentioned that, much as 
he liked the Commissioner, he did not, like the other 'assistants,' 
live in the Residency compound, but in a separate house, a mile and 
a-half off, with a chaplain of the name of Everest, with whom he had 
struck up a friendship. Nor is it without interest to remark that 
among the young Englishmen then to be found at Delhi was Robert 
Napier, who, at that very time, was engaged, at the head of a body of 
sappers, in strengthening the fortifications which, twenty-seven years 
later, were so long to bid defiance to the forces which John Lawrence 
was to keep hurrying thither from his distant province. 




At the end of his four years' apprenticeship in the city of Delhi, 
John Lawrence was transferred to a ' district ' and placed in charge 
of the northern division of the Delhi territory. Its chief station was 
Paniput, at a distance of some twenty miles from which there lay the 
important military cantonment of Kurnal. But the Paniput district 
needed no cantonment to keep alive the martial spirit, or to awake 
the military associations, which are inseparably connected with its 
history : for what the plain of Esdraelon has been to Jewish, and the 
carse of Stirling to Scottish, history; what Belgium has, in later 
times, been to the history of the whole of Europe ; — that the Paniput 
district is to the history of the Indian peninsula. It is, in short, the 
battlefield of India. 

Not to speak of less important combats and campaigns innumer- 
able, three times over the fate of the whole peninsula has been 
decided within its boundaries. It was here, in 1556, that Akbar, the 
greatest of the Moguls — then a stripling of thirteen years old — after 
performing, according to the story, prodigies of personal valour, 
which we may believe or not, succeeded, as we must believe, under 
the guidance of the able general, Behram Khan, who nominally 
served under him, in winning back for his father, Humayun, the 
empire which he had lost. It was here, in 1739, that Nadir Shah, the 
greatest warrior whom modern Persia has produced, after raising 
himself to the Persian throne, and beating back the Turks and 
Russians to the west and north, and taking Herat and Candahar, 
Ghuzni and Cabul, to the east and south, shattered the forces of the 
Mogul, Mohammed Shah, and carried off the spoils of Delhi as his 
prize. And it was here, once more, in 1761 that Ahmed Shah, 
Dourani, after repeatedly invading India through the Khyber Pass, 
finally defeated the Mahratta hosts, and, after incredible slaughter, 


drove their remnant headlong southward over the Nerbudda, de- 
prived, for the time, of all their northern conquests. Had it not 
been for this crowning victory, the Mahrattas must have overrun and 
conquered all Upper India thirty years and more before the Welles- 
leys came to stop them. 

Influenced, it may be, by these historical traditions, the people of 
the Paniput district bore a character for turbulence and disaffection 
beyond that of any of the adjoining districts; and if the city of Delhi 
had given John Lawrence an insight, which he could hardly have 
obtained elsewhere, into the condition of all classes of a city popula- 
tion, as well as of the older aristocracy, it is equally certain that few 
districts could have given him so thorough an acquaintance with the 
wants and habits of the best part of the inhabitants of India, its agri- 
cultural population, and — what is more material to note here — with, 
perhaps, the very best section of that best part, the widely spread 
race of Jats. 

Let us then, as in the case of the city of Delhi itself, and for the 
same reasons, dwell, for a moment, on the history and leading cha- 
racteristics of the race which, under various designations, occupies 
by far the larger part of the country in which John Lawrence's active 
life is henceforward to be passed. The Jats are said by Tod, the 
historian of Rajpootana, to be descended from the ancient Getas, or 
Scythians. The apparent similarity of name, no doubt, suggested the 
precise Scythian tribe to which he assigns their origin ; but their 
handsome, prominent features and their tall, bony frames clearly 
proclaim their northern birth. They are to be found scattered over 
nearly the whole of the country between the Jhelum and the Jumna, 
and extend southward even to Bhurtpore and Agra. Like other 
hordes of northern invaders, which, from the time of Darius and 
Xerxes downwards, have poured down into India from the wilds of 
Central Asia, they were, in their turn, conquered and absorbed by 
the compact and complex civilisation of the country which they 
overran, and they thus became almost as Brahminical in their belief 
and institutions as the Hindus themselves. Indeed, a process was 
then going on in India similar to that which was witnessed, on a still 
larger scale, in Europe in the fourth and following centuries after 
Christ. The successive hordes of Ostrogoths and Visigoths, of 
Vandals and Franks, of Bulgarians and Slavonians, who overran the 
decaying fabric of the Roman Empire, were themselves taken captive 
by the nascent Christianity and by the majestic system of law which 


are its most fruitful and enduring legacies to the Western world. 
But the stereotyped religion of the Hindus could not satisfy the 
spiritual wants of the Jats, in the way in which Christianity, with its 
few rules and its all-embracing principles, its boundless power of de- 
velopment, and its adaptability to the most diverse conditions of time 
and place, was able to meet the needs of the progressive nations of 
the West. And the Jats have, to an extent which is very remarkable 
in an Oriental people, been able to appreciate and assimilate one 
elevated creed after another, as they have, successively, been pre- 
sented to them. 

At one time, the new impulse came in the shape of that great 
religious and social movement which, starting in the breast of an 
unlettered shepherd of Mecca, was carried by the half-naked Arabs 
and by those whom they conquered and inspired, amidst the crumb- 
ling of all older thrones and creeds, in one sweep of unbroken 
conquest from Gibraltar to Delhi. At one time, as in the case of the 
religion preached by the pious and gentle prophet Nanuk, it came in 
the shape of a peaceful internal reformation. In this way, many of 
the Jats, especially those along the southern Indus, became fervent 
Muslims, while others, several centuries later, especially those in the 
central districts about Lahore and Umritsur, became equally fervent 
Sikhs — ' disciples,' that is, of Nanuk, and of the Gurus or religious 
leaders of whom he was the spiritual progenitor. 

Strange, at first sight, that the same people should be able to 
embrace with equal enthusiasm creeds so different as those of 
Mohammed and of Nanuk ! And strange, also, that the hatred 
between the votaries of each should be so intense that John Law- 
rence could afford, in the crisis of our fate, to put arms freely into 
the hands of one of these sections, in full confidence that they would 
use them, not against their common masters but against their own 
brethren ! But it will be discovered, on a closer investigation, that 
the fundamental principles of both religions were the same. Both 
were based on an antagonism to idolatry, and both proclaimed as 
their leading doctrines the Unity of God and the equality of man. 
And it is a melancholy fact of human nature, as observable in the 
East as in the West, that they who differ least on religious questions 
generally hate the most. Whether an Eastern race, which has 
proved itself so singularly plastic in religious matters as to adopt 
successively three such religions as the Hindu, the Mohammedan, and 
the Sikh, will be capable of a yet further step in advance, and be 


ready, when it is properly presented to them, to embrace Christianity, 
is a question which is equally interesting in an ethnological and 
religious point of view. 

As far south as Kurnal, all the Jats adopted the name and creed 
of Sikhs ; but those beyond are still Hindus in creed and retain 
their original name. The Sikh religion was, at first, merely a reformed 
Hinduism. But in process of time it became much more, and may 
be described rather as 'the military and political spirit superadded 
to a reformed religion.' The Sikhs are equally well known as 
excellent and thrifty cultivators of the soil and as hardy and formid- 
able soldiers. Their feelings, social and political, are highly demo- 
cratic j and though they rally round the leaders of their race, it is in 
the free spirit of associates rather than of servants. Those Jats who 
have not adopted the new religion are quite as fearless and indus- 
trious, but they are more peacefully inclined, than their Sikh 
brethren. They know how to defend their rights, should any one be 
venturesome enough to attack them, with the most effectual of 
arguments ; and the only real obstacle to our conquests in the north 
of India in the beginning of this century came from them. It was 
the great Jat chiefship of Bhurtpore, for instance, which rolled back 
for a time the victorious career of Lord Lake. 

Such, then, was the race — thrifty, industrious, independent, stoutly 
attached to their village communities and their ancestral acres — 
with which John Lawrence had now to deal in his new appointment 
as collector-magistrate of the Paniput district. How did he deal 
with them ? 

I shall presently quote the testimony, as vigorous as it is dis- 
criminating, of the only Englishman who can speak with personal 
knowledge of John Lawrence's work at Paniput. But, first, let us 
inquire in more general terms what the duties of a collector-magis- 
trate are. Thousands of educated Englishmen who appreciate Lord 
Lawrence warmly, and regard him as one of those national heroes of 
whom England may justly be most proud, yet have a very inadequate 
notion of the long and painful period of self- discipline and probation 
which prepared the way for his success. They know little of the 
labours, multifarious and yet monotonous, exhausting yet also 
refreshing ; of that union of a liberty which is practically unfettered 
with a responsibility the most real, which go to form the characters 
and shape the careers of Englishmen in India, and which have 
produced, in spite of many mistakes and shortcomings, a succession 


of statesman-soldiers, and soldier-statesmen, such as no imperial 
state has before produced, and in the long roll of whom there are 
few names equal, and not one superior, to that of John Lawrence. 

A ' district' usually contains a population of several hundred 
thousand inhabitants, who are spread over several thousand square 
miles of territory and are distributed among many hundreds of 
villages and townships. Over this vast area and these multitudinous 
interests the * collector,' sometimes with a small staff of European 
assistants, sometimes, as in the case of John Lawrence at Paniput, 
single-handed, rules as a kind of terrestrial providence. His primary 
duty, as his name implies, is the collection of the revenue or land- 
tax, on the punctual payment of which the solvency of the Indian 
Government depends ; while on the care with which it was originally 
assessed, on its moderate and fixed amount, and on the leniency 
with which, in times of exceptional distress, its payment is enforced, 
depends, in great measure, that for which alone it is to be hoped our 
Indian Empire exists — the prosperity and happiness of its inhabit- 

In provinces which have been long settled, the collection of the 
revenue is, except where the powers of nature have been more than 
ordinarily unkind, a work of no great difficulty. In fact, owing to 
the admirable village system which, in the North-West Provinces 
and in the Punjab, the most ardent of our reformers have happily 
been content to leave unreformed, it may almost be said to collect 
itself. Tax-gatherers in England may be surprised to hear that the 
taxes in these provinces often possess the peculiarity of being paid 
before they are asked for. But the collector of revenue is also a 
magistrate, and is responsible for the administration of justice 
throughout his district. Every criminal, from a dacoit or a thug 
down to the petty thief, is brought before him. He is expected to 
redress every grievance, from a murrain among the flocks or a 
scourge of locusts among the crops, down to ' a claim to a water- 
spout in the bazaar ' or an opprobrious epithet. For many hours 
every day, while the rain is descending in cataclysms and turning the 
world into a vapour-bath, or, again, while the sun is scorching it like 
a furnace and baking it till it is hard as iron, he sits patiently on 
in his stifling cutcherry, listening, reproving, advising, consoling, 

The collector has to keep his eye upon the police, well knowing 
that they will work effectively if that eye, or one of the thousand 


Argus eyes which he requires, be upon them : without it they will do 
nothing, or worse than nothing. * Everything,' says R. H. Cust, in 
an excellent article on the subject in the ' Calcutta Review,' ' which 
is done by the executive government is done by the collector in one 
or other of his capacities — publican, auctioneer, sheriff, road-maker, 
timber-dealer, recruiting-sergeant, slayer of wild beasts, bookseller, 
cattle-breeder, postmaster, vaccinator, discounter of bills, and regis- 
trar.' New tanks to be constructed ; rivers to be bridged, to be 
turned into new courses or back into their old ones ; new roads to 
be made ; new dispensaries, hospitals, schools, or jails to be built ; 
lands to be cleared or drained ; primaeval forests to be felled or new 
ones to be planted ; new crops or new methods of cultivation to be 
introduced ; — all these come within the collector's legitimate and 
ordinary functions. Who is sufficient, it may well be asked, for 
these things ! No one is altogether sufficient ; but it is simply 
surprising, thanks to the energy, the sagacity, the punctuality, the 
strong love of justice, and the careful and loving study of the native 
character which so many of our administrators in the latter days of 
the East India Company possessed, how few of them fell con- 
spicuously short of such success as is attainable by poor human 

But the most important duties of the collector-magistrate are not 
discharged in the stifling cutcherry at the central station, but rather 
in that 'cutcherry on horseback,' or under the easily shifted tent, 
which forms his locomotive home during some five months in the 
year. Whenever the season is favourable — whenever, that is, the 
deluges of rain or the overpowering heat allow him to do so — he 
makes a progress through his dominions, which is only not a royal 
progress because it is something more, pitching his tent, now here, 
now there, as best suits the purposes of his work. The people have 
now no longer to go to see him; but, what is much better, he goes to 
see them. He rides about redressing human wrongs. Divested of 
all state, and often quite alone, he visits each village contained in his 
cure of souls, takes his seat under some immemorial tree or beside 
the village well, where the village elders soon cluster around him. 
He talks to them, listens to their stories and their grievances, discusses 
the weather and the crops, and settles on the spot itself — sometimes 
by a mere word, sometimes by a long investigation of many days to- 
gether — some outstanding boundary dispute which has been the cause 
of heart-burnings and head-breakings for many generations. He 


thus gets to know the people and to be known of them. He makes 
allowance for their many faults — the growth of centuries of oppression 
by foreign or domestic tyrants ; he appreciates their simple virtues, 
and is rewarded in his turn— a reward not often given to an English- 
man when he has risen to a higher grade — by their gratitude, their 
respect, and their affection. Often, indeed, when a magistrate has 
risen to the top of the tree, and is the victim of the scandal and the 
envy, the ingratitude and the self-seeking, the etiquette and the 
officialism which haunt the antechambers of the great, and finds that 
he is in that worst of solitudes, alone amidst a crowd, must he look 
regretfully back upon the simpler life, the purer motives, and the more 
satisfying rewards which were his once happy lot. 

And now let us hear what Charles Raikes, the author of one of 
the best books on this and kindred subjects, 1 and, like Charles Tre- 
velyan, another lifelong friend of John Lawrence, writes, from his 
personal recollection, about the duties which the Paniput district re- 
quired, and of the way in which John Lawrence discharged them. 

Early in the year 1835 John Lawrence was stationed at the ancient 
and historically famous town of Paniput. He was ' officiating' as magis- 
trate and collector of the district. He had also to conduct a settlement 
and survey of the lands comprised in his district. Let us glance for a 
moment at the details of the sort of work and duty confided to this 
young Irishman. Paniput is situated on the high road from Delhi to 
the Punjab, about seventy miles north-west of Delhi. The district is 
inhabited by Jats, industrious Hindu peasants, devoted to agriculture, 
and attached by the strongest ties to the land ; by Goojurs, who were 
given to cattle-lifting ; and by Ranghurs (Rajpoots converted to a nominal 
form of Mohammedanism), who were as jealous of their land as the Jats, 
still worse thieves than the Goojurs, with a taste for promiscuous robbery 
and murder into the bargain. These men, it is to be remembered, are 
not at all like the typical 'meek Hindu,' but on the contrary are tall, 
strong, bold fellows, determined and ready to fight for every inch of their 
land and every head of their cattle. In those days they never went out 
to plough or to herd their buffaloes without sword, shield, and often a long 
matchlock over their shoulders. 

Over some 400,000 of a population like this, scattered in large villages 
through an area of 800,000 acres, John Lawrence ruled supreme. He 
himself, in those days, had very much the cut of a Jat, being wiry, tall, 
muscular, rather dark in complexion, and without an ounce of superfluous 
fat or flesh. He usually wore a sort of compromise between English and 

1 Notes on the North- West Provinces of India. 


Indian costume, had his arms ready at hand, and led a life as primus 
inter pares, rather than a foreigner or a despot, among the people. Yet 
a despot he was, as any man soon discovered who was bold enough or 
silly enough to question his legitimate authority — a despot, but full of 
kindly feelings, and devoted heart and soul to duty and hard work. 

As magistrate, he had charge of the police — a handful of sowars, or 
troopers, mounted on country horses and armed with sword and pistol, 
and mostly retained at headquarters, and the ordinary constabulary force 
stationed at the various thanahs, or police-stations, dotted over the 
district. Each of these stations was under the charge of a thanadar, or 
chief of police, with a jemadar, or sergeant, a mohurrir, or scribe, and a 
dozen or so of police burkundazes (literally ' hurler of fire '), who, armed 
with sword or lance, formed the rank and file of the force. But these 
were supplemented by a nondescript but very useful village official, a 
choukedar, whose duty was that of a watchman or parish constable, and 
a reporter (to the thanadar) of all crimes, sudden deaths, or other note- 
worthy events which happened in his village. This was the framework 
of the district police, little changed from the system which had prevailed 
for centuries under the Emperors of Delhi. It was a system sufficiently 
efficacious to protect the public under a just and energetic magistrate, and 
an apt engine of oppression under a venal or, above all, under a careless 
and slothful official. Suffice it to say that John Lawrence at Paniput was 
the right man in the right place, and for the following reasons. 

First, he was at all times and in all places, even in his bedroom, 
accessible to the people of his district. He loved his joke with the 
sturdy farmers, his chat with the city bankers, his argument with the 
native gentry, few and far between. When out with his dogs and gun he 
had no end of questions to ask every man he met. After a gallop across 
country, he would rest on a charpoy, or country bed, and hold an im- 
promptu levee of all the village folk, from the headman to the barber. 
''Jan Larens] said the people, ' sub jantaj that is, knows everything. For 
this very reason, he was a powerful magistrate, and, I may here add, a 
brilliant and invaluable revenue officer. 

Secondly, he was never above his work. I have an indistinct recol- 
lection of his arresting a murderer, on receiving intelligence of the crime, 
with his own hand. At all events, where the report of a murder, an 
affray with wounding, or a serious robbery came in, John Lawrence was 
at once in the saddle and off to the spot. With greater deliberation, but 
equal self-devotion, he proceeded to the spot to investigate important 
disputes about land, crops, water privileges, boundaries, and so forth. 
The Persian proverb, 'Disputes about land must be settled on the land' 
— ' Kuzea zumeen buh dir zumeen ' — was often on his tongue. 

Thirdly, owing to this determination to go about for himself and to 
hear what everybody had to say about everything, he shook off, nay, he 

VOL. I. E 


utterly confounded, the tribe of flatterers, sycophants, and informers who, 
when they can get the opportunity, dog the steps of the Indian ruler.' What 
chance had an informer with a man who was bent on seeing everything 
with his own eyes ? 

All this might have been said of Donald Macleod, of Robert Mont- 
gomery, and of other friends of Lawrence who became great Indian 
administrators. But John Lawrence had, in addition, a quality of hard- 
ness, not amounting to harshness, but not short of severity, which made 
the malefactor tremble at his name. He might or he might not be loved — 
this seemed to be his mind—but respected he would be at all events. 

I have said enough to show that in the early days of his Indian career 
John Lawrence was a most energetic and vigorous magistrate. To do 
any sort of justice to the training of those days which prepared him for 
future distinction, I must now turn to Lawrence as a revenue officer. 
The good old East India Company which he served, and which called 
the young men sent out to rule her provinces ' writers,' called the chiefs 
who gathered up her lacs of rupees and ruled her landed millions 
* collectors.' John Lawrence then was a 'collector,' as well as a magis- 
trate, and just then the collector's work was in a transition state, which 
entailed severe labour and tested every faculty. The great survey and 
settlement of the land was in progress ; boundaries were to be marked, 
every village measured and mapped, and registers of the area, the soil, 
the cultivators, the rent, the land-tax, in short, of all the facts and figures 
affecting the land, were to be made. 

How it happened that Lawrence was expected, single-handed, to 
accomplish so vast a work I cannot tell. All that I can say is that when 
I was sent to help him, I cannot remember that he had any one to share 
his burden except his native officials, who, in those days, had purely 
ministerial powers in the revenue departments. For seven or eight 
months he lived amongst the agricultural classes in his tent, and thus 
mastered the detail of revenue work. 

I was younger than Lawrence, and had been only three or four years 
in India when I went to join him at Paniput. For very good reasons I 
shall never forget my first interview with my chief. He was, I was going 
to say, in his shirt sleeves, only I am not sure that he wore a shirt in those 
days — I think he had a chupkun, or native undergarment — surrounded by 
what seemed to me a mob of natives, with two or three dogs at his feet, 
talking, writing, dictating — in short, doing cut cherry. 

After some talk with me he summed up thus : ' Now look at this map. 
Paniput district is divided into nine thanahs (police circuits) : I give you 
these three at the north-western extremity, including the large cantonment 
of Kurnal. I put the police and revenue work under you. Mind, you are 
not to get into rows with the military authorities. If you behave well to 
them they will be civil to you. If you can keep crime down and collect 


your revenue in your share of the district, I will not interfere with you. 
If you want help, come to me. All reports of your own thanahs will be 
sent to you. I shall soon know what you are made of. Go, and do not 
be hard on the zemindars (landowners). Government revenue, of course, 
must be paid, but do not be hard : " The calf gets the milk which is left 
in the cow." Come and see me sometimes.' 

Laurence thus trusted me and taught me to trust myself. From that 
hour my fortune as a public officer was made. I learned my work under 
the ablest of masters, and shall ever gratefully remember the day which 
saw me installed as assistant to the young magistrate and collector of 

John Lawrence remained in charge of the district which has been 
thus vigorously described for nearly two years (1835-37), and, during 
the greater part of that time, he was the sole British officer in charge 
of the administration. The district was in bad order when he came 
into it, for his predecessor had not been very competent. Part of it, 
moreover, had suffered ifrom the drought of 1833 and 1834. 'To 
bring people,' says John Lawrence, ' who were impoverished and dis- 
contented into order and contentment ; to make them pay their land- 
tax punctually ; to deter, if not to wean, them from their habits of 
life, which were those of their ancestors for centuries ; to revise the 
assessment of the land-tax which had broken down, and, at the same 
time, to carry on and improve the general administration, was no light 

In his predecessor's time, the revenue had often been collected 
almost in the Sikh fashion, at the point Of the sword. Soldiers and 
guns had been the ordinary accompaniments of the revenue-collector. 
This John Lawrence did not like, and he determined to get on with- 
out them. There was one walled village, in particular, which was 
notorious for its recusancy. John Lawrence surrounded it by night 
with his own police, and, stationing a small knot of them on each 
track which led to the pastures, gave them strict orders to turn back 
into the village all the cattle as they came out in the early morning. 
The police did as they were told, and the village cowherds took back 
word that the orders of the Sahib were that no cattle were to be 
allowed to go to pasture till the land-tax was paid. Another and 
another sortie was attempted by the cowherds, but always with the 
same result. Meanwhile the cattle were becoming more hungry and 
more obstreperous, and, at last, a deputation of the villagers came 
out and asked for an interview with the Sahib. It was granted ; but 


he soon found that they had come armed only with the usual non 
possumus ; they had no money and could not pay. ' Well,' said the 
Sahib, ' I will let you go to the next village to borrow it, and if you 
bring back either the sum you owe or a bond from the banker to pay 
it for you within a certain day, well and good. Otherwise, the cattle 
stay where they are.' The deputation saw that the Sahib was in earnest, 
and soon returned with the money. The cattle were able, by two or 
three o'clock in the afternoon, to pass out to their long-delayed 
morning meal, and there was no more trouble in the collection of 
the revenue in that part of the district ; no need of guns, or soldiers, 
or even police. 

Another incident, told me by Sir Richard Pollock, is equally 
illustrative of the change produced in the Paniput district by the 
change of ruler. His predecessor, as I have said, had not been 
enough of a terror to evildoers ; crimes had increased pari passu with 
revenue arrears, and in his strenuous endeavours to introduce a com- 
plete reformation John Lawrence's health broke down. One day, a 
Haileybury contemporary, who was at work in an adjoining district, 
rode over to see him and found him ill in bed. Nothing seemed to 
interest or arouse him. In the course of a talk, which was all on one 
side, his friend happened to mention that at a place where he had 
changed horses that morning he had found the stand of a fakir, and, 
entering into a conversation with him, had asked whether there was 
anything new stirring in the neighbourhood. ' Indeed there is,' replied 

the fakir ; ' Sahib is gone, and everybody regrets him ; for one, 

Larens Sahib, has come in his place who is quite a different sort of 
man ; ' and he then went on to draw a dismal picture of the way in 
which rules were enforced, rogues punished, and revenue arrears col- 
lected. ' Such a recognition of my efforts by such a man,' said John 
Lawrence, in telling the story, ' acted upon me like a tonic, and I 
seemed to mend from that hour.' 

Thus the work grew under John Lawrence's hands, and the natives 
knew who was king. In the evening he used to hold what he called 
his durbar — that is, he would sit outside his tent in the loosest of 
loose dresses and talk by the hour to all comers. ' You Feringhis,' 
said an old chief to him one night, who had seen what he thought to 
be better days, 'are wonderful fellows; here are two of you managing 
the whole country for miles round. When I was a young man we 
should have been going out four or five hundred horseman strong to 
plunder it.' So entirely was John Lawrence thrown on the natives 


for society and for recreation during his Paniput life, that he seems to 
have half forgotten his own language. A young civilian, who called 
upon him one day on his way up the country, told John Thornton, 
on his return, that he had hardly been able to make out what Law- 
rence said to him, his conversation was so interspersed with Persian 
words and expressions. 

But the natives were not his only companions. If he had a good 
horse or a good dog he never felt alone ; and he took care, in this 
sense of the word, never to be alone. His means, at this time, were 
small, and he never spent much upon himself; but the sight of a fine 
Arab was, once and again, too much for him, as an incident he was 
fond of telling, and which has been handed on to me by Sir Richard 
Pollock, shows. 

One day, a sheikh brought a batch of Arabs to his station, and 
one of the first visitors to the stables was, as a matter of course, the 
collector-magistrate. A. particularly fine Arab, named Chanda, took 
his fancy ; but, as the price named for it was three thousand rupees, 
and no efforts could induce the owner to take a smaller sum, while all 
that John Lawrence possessed in the world was two thousand rupees, 
he was obliged at last to go home disconsolate. On the way, it oc- 
curred to him to make one effort more, and when he reached his 
home he got out his two money-bags, each containing a thousand 
rupees, put one bag on each side of him in his buggy, and drove 
straight back to the sheikh. As he stepped down he took care to 
shake the bags well and make the contents jingle in the old man's 
ears, and explained again that he could pay down so much in cash 
and no more — that he had no more. The cheerful jingle of the 
rupees was too much for the dealer, and Lawrence went home, the 
happy possessor of the Arab, but without a penny in the world that 
he could call his own. 

But Chanda was not so bad a bargain after all. On one occasion 
he saved his owner's life. John Lawrence was galloping home late one 
night, as his custom was, across country, when the Arab ccrae to a 
dead stand, nearly shooting his rider over his head. Lawrence tried 
to spur him on, but Chanda refused to move, and only, after backing 
a good way, and then taking a considerable circuit, consented to 
continue in the former direction. The night was very dark, and 
Lawrence, who had never known his horse do the like before, was a 
good deal puzzled. The next day he managed to make his way back 
to the place, when he found, to his horror, that he had ridden at full 


gallop right up to a large open underground tank or cistern, such as 
are not uncommon in that thirsty country, some thirty feet deep. 
One step more would have been the death of both horse and rider. 
And often afterwards, in looking over the points of a horse, he would 
draw attention to the full, round prominent eye, able to take in rays 
of light invisible to man, which had caught sight of the yawning 
chasm immediately below him in that dark night. ' It was an eye 
like that,' he said one day, as he was examining a fine horse's head in 
Mr. Woolner's studio, 'which saved my life.' 

The post of collector-magistrate of Paniput, which had hitherto 
been only an ' acting ' one, now became permanently vacant, and 
John Lawrence, who had not been thought too young to reduce 
anarchy to order on a minimum of pay, was thought, as it seems, too 
young, now that it had been so reduced, to keep things going and to 
receive the proper salary. And, to make the disappointment more 
complete, he was superseded by a civilian who, having failed as a 
judge and having been deprived of the less onerous appointment, was 
now given the far more difficult post of collector and magistrate of 
Paniput ! It was red tape with a vengeance ; but it it first gave 
John Lawrence the hatred of red tape which he certainly showed 
when he was in a position to burst through its bonds, it may be well 
for all concerned that the disappointment came upon him. 

Turned out of Paniput, John Lawrence reverted to his ' substan- 
tive ' post as assistant magistrate and collector of Delhi, and, many 
years afterwards, he thus summed up what, as he thought, he had 
seen and done and gained in these first five years of work in India : — 

During my charge of the Paniput district, I completed my training as 
a civil officer. It was a hard one, it is true, but one which I had no cause 
ever to regret. It has facilitated all my subsequent labours, no matter 
how varied, how onerous. I had become well acquainted with the duties 
of an administrator both in a large city and in an important agricultutal 
district. I had come in contact with all classes of the people, high and 
low. I had made acquaintance with most of the criminal classes, and 
understood their habits of life. I had seen all the different agricultural 
races of that part of India. I had learned to understand the peculiarities 
of the tenure of land, the circumstances of Indian agriculture, canal and 
well irrigation, as well as the habits, social customs, and leading charac- 
teristics of the people. During this period, I defined and marked 
off boundaries between village lands, which had been the cause of san- 
guinary feuds for generations ; I revised the revenue assessments of the 
land ; I superintended the collection of the revenue ; I had charge of the 


treasury ; I sought out and brought to justice a number of great criminals ; 
I managed the police, and, in fact, under the humble designation of 
magistrate and collector, was the pivot round which the whole adminis- 
tration of the district revolved. In the discharge of my multifarious duties 
I visited, in all cases of more than ordinary difficulty, the very locality 
itself. For the most part, my only aids in all this work were the native 
collectors of the different subdivisions of the country. In addition to all 
these duties, I did what I could to relieve the sick. In those days we 
had no dispensaries, and the civil duty of the medical officer was limited 
to the charge of the jail. I used to carry about a good sized medicine- 
chest, and, when the day's work was over, was constantly surrounded by 
a crowd of people asking for relief for most of ' the ills to which flesh is 
heir.' Many a poor creature I had thus to send away, simply from fear 
of doing him harm. 

Such was my daily life for nearly two years, and such were the lives 
of my brother civilians in adjacent districts. Half our time was spent in 
tents ; and every portion of our charges would, at one time ©r the other, 
be duly visited, so that, in' the event of any untoward accident, or serious 
crime, we could judge pretty correctly as to the peculiar circumstances 
connected with it. These were very happy days. Our time was fully 
occupied, and our work was of a nature to call forth all our energies, all 
our sympathies, and all our abilities. Our emoluments were relatively 
small, but the experience and the credit we gained stood us in good stead 
in after years. During this period I saw little of English society, finding 
that I could not enjoy it and also accomplish my work. Thus I seldom 
visited the cantonments except on urgent business, and then only, as a 
rule, for a single day. In those days I met with many curious adventures, 
and, on some occasions, was in considerable peril of life, but good for- 
tune and careful management combined brought me successfully out of 
them all. 

These last simple words are tantalising enough. They suggest 
but they do not satisfy. How suggestive and how unsatisfying I have 
the best of reasons for knowing ; for old friends of John Lawrence 
have told me, alike in writing and in conversation, that, when he first 
came home from India on furlough, he used to pour forth a con- 
tinuous flow of stories of hair-breadth escapes from assassination, 
from drowning, from wild beasts ; of great criminals hunted down ; 
of cattle-liftings on a gigantic scale ; of riots and raids ; of robberies 
and murders ; of thugs and dacoits ; of feats of his favourite dogs or 
horses, — all drawn directly from his own experience. And again, 
many years afterwards, when he had retired, as he thought, from 
public life, and when a family of children was growing up around him 


at Southgate, or at Brocket Hall, it was their ordinary Sunday 
evening's treat to hear one of these wonder-stirring adventures. 
'What shall it be?' he always used to begin by asking — 'a hunt, a 
robbery, or a murder ? ' The children, with that appetite for the awe- 
inspiring which is one of the most pleasurable pains of childhood, 
and one of the most loved regrets of a later and a sadder age, 
generally first chose the murder. But their father had an abundant 
store of each kind from which to draw. 

Unfortunately, it occurred to no one, either in those earlier days 
when few people thought that he would become great, or, in later 
days, when he had already become so, to write these stories down, 
and many of them are therefore irrecoverably lost to the world. But 
I am told that greybeards of the Delhi district, and of the Jullundur 
Doab, still talk of his deeds of prowess and skill around the village 
well, and tell them to their children's children. It may well therefore 
happen that some of these may go down to posterity, magnified and 
multiplied as they go, and that, centuries hence, Jan Larens may 
play in the North-West of India something of the part which the 
Trolls and Jotuns, or even Thor and Odin, have borne in the sad 
and serious European North ; and that he may live for ever in 
Eastern song and fable along with the great heroes of the long past, 
Zal and Rustum, Solomon and the two-horned Iskander. It would 
be well if an immortality of the kind had always been as well 
deserved — acquired, that is, by deeds at which no one need blush, 
and for which no human being was the worse, and many were much 
the better. 

What a diary John Lawrence's would have been, during this early 
period of his life, had he had the patience to keep one ! But, 
fortunately, his adventures, even in the absence of all diaries and 
contemporary letters, need not be wholly lost to his countrymen. 
When, after the death of the Arabian prophet, disputes arose as to 
the meaning of a Sura, or the binding character of a Tradition, and 
no answer could be obtained from the shoulder-of-mutton bones, or 
the oyster-shells or the bits of wood, or the leaves of trees, on which 
the Sacred Message had been originally written, recourse was had to 
'the breasts of the faithful/ and there a satisfactory answer or 
explanation was often found. From ' the breasts of the faithful } 
scattered everywhere help has been, I think I may say, as diligently 
sought by me as it has been freely given. From the breasts of 
Montgomery and Cust, of Trevelyan and Raikes, of Thornton and 


Pollock, and several other of his earlier friends ; from the recollec- 
tions of his wife and children ; from a host of his later friends in 
England ; not least, from his devoted lady-secretary, — I have gathered 
up such fragments as I could of the history of his earlier and more 
adventurous career ; and from these, as well as from my own 
recollections of his conversation, and from five or six stories, which, 
shortly after his marriage, with the aid of his ever-ready and faithful 
helper, he himself committed to writing, I am able to give some 
slight idea of the dauntless tracker of criminals, of the 'mighty 
hunter before the Lord,' of the giant in strength and in courage, in 
roughness and in kindliness, in sport and in work, which John 
Lawrence then was. 

No Samson, no Hercules, no Milo, no Arthur, can have had 
more stories of personal prowess, of grim humour, of the relief of the 
distressed, to tell than he. Physically, he was a Hercules himself, 
as the noble busts of him by Mr. Woolner, and the remarkable 
portrait by Mr. Watts, which, it is to be hoped, will, some day, 
become the property of the nation, may still show to those who have 
never had the opportunity of seeing the man himself. Physical 
strength, commanding height, activity of body, elements of power 
as they are everywhere, are nowhere more potent than among the 
natives of India, whether among the enervated Bengalis, who can at 
least admire in others what they do not possess themselves, or among 
the wiry Sikhs and relentless Afghans, who can hardly fail to appre- 
ciate that of which they themselves possess so large a share. And 
when these physical characteristics are combined with others, moral 
and intellectual, which are conspicuously wanting in many Indian 
races — with absolute truthfulness in word and deed, with active 
benevolence, with a sagacity which is the result not of mere shrewd- 
ness, but of untiring honesty of purpose, with boundless devotion to 
duty and hard work — their possessor becomes a pow r er indeed in the 

On board the ship on which John Lawrence first went out to 
India, he used, even when weakened by sea-sickness, to astonish the 
passengers by the ease with which he could hold out at arm's length 
a cannon-ball which few of them could lift at all. Excitement some- 
times lent him almost a preternatural degree of strength. One night, 
an Indian village was in flames ; all efforts to extinguish it were 
useless, and an old woman, finding that neither she nor her belong- 
ings had the strength to carry out a sack of corn, almost all the 


worldly goods she possessed, from her cottage, sat down upon it, 
determined, like the Roman senators of old, to perish with her 
household gods. John Lawrence, who just then appeared upon the- 
scene, in a sudden access of strength, like the Samson that he was, 
caught up the sack, and, like his prototype with the gates of Gaza, 
carried it to a safe distance from the burning house. The old 
woman, finding that her sack of corn was saved, was no longer 
unwilling to save herself, and John Lawrence, going the next day 
to the spot, found that he was quite unable even to lift the sack 
from off the ground ! 

But these anecdotes indicate mere bodily strength. Here is one 
which implies something more. 

Shortly after his appointment as Collector of Delhi, a lawless 
chief in an outlying and desert part of the country refused to pay his 
land-tax. Attended only by a single orderly — for he seldom took 
more — John Lawrence rode thither, a distance of some thirty miles, 
very early in the morning, to demand or to enforce payment. The 
village was walled, the gates were shut and barred, and not even his 
strength was able to force an entrance. What was he to do ? To 
go back would be a confession of defeat and would encourage other 
neighbouring chiefs to give similar trouble. On the other hand, it 
was the hottest season of the year. There was no food, no shelter, 
no shade outside the walls except that of a single sickly babul tree- 
Finally, there were no troops within thirty miles. He sent a hasty 
note by his orderly back to Delhi asking for some guns, and then 
sat down under the babul tree, exactly opposite the principal gate, a 
single man beleaguering or threatening a fortified post ! The fierce 
sun of India had done its worst, and was fast subsiding towards the 
horizon, but still no guns appeared, and still the resolute collector 
sat on. At last the chief of a neighbouring village approached and 
offered, should the Sahib so will, to help him to reduce his subjects 
to submission. John Lawrence, knowing that in India, as elsewhere, 
jealousy is a ruling motive among neighbouring potentates, accepted 
his offer for what it was worth. The result of a mere show of force, 
backed up by John Lawrence's stern resolution, was the submission 
of the recusant chieftain, the infliction of a fine over and above the 
land-tax, and the return of the collector in triumph to Delhi, after 
winning a bloodless victory, and without even the news, which has 
so often struck terror into the native breast, having reached the 
village, that the ' guns were coming.' 


Years afterwards, when the Collector of Delhi had risen to be 
Chief-Commissioner of the Punjab, and had just succeeded in 
winning back Delhi from the mutineers, a list of rebel chiefs who 
had been sentenced to death was presented to him for his signature. 
The, first name on the list attracted his attention, for it was that of 
the Goojur chieftain who had given him such timely aid twenty 
years before ; and he struck his name off the list and spared his life. 

So much for the way in which John Lawrence managed the 
turbulent chieftains of his district. Now for a story illustrative of 
the manner in which he detected crime in a different stratum of 
native society. I have pointed out already how numerous were the 
criminal classes in the Delhi district, and have endeavoured to 
indicate the circumstances which had tended, for a century past, to 
attract them thither and to give immunity to their crimes. The 
story which I am about to relate is one of a collection of four or five 
which Mrs. John Lawrence took down from her husband's dictation 
at Delhi in the spring of 1845, with a view to the amusement of a 
younger generation who were just then beginning to appear. I give 
it in full as an illustration at once of John Lawrence's style in story- 
telling and of his energy and sagacity in action. 

The Brothers. 

I think it was in the month of June 1835, during my magistracy of the 
district of Paniput, in the North-West Provinces of India, when a murder 
occurred which interested me so much that, though many years have 
elapsed, I recollect the whole circumstances of the case as if they had 
occurred yesterday. The night being sultry, I had ordered my bed to be 
placed outside the bungalow, in the open air. This is a practice common 
in India when the nights, as at that season, are very hot and dry ; and, 
however dangerous it may appear to people in Europe, is there done with 
perfect impunity. 

I had undressed in my room, and having put on my night-clothes, 
which, in that part of India, consist of a complete suit, covering the 
person from top to toe, was walking towards my bed, preceded by 'my 
old bearer, or valet, carrying the wax taper. Suddenly we were disturbed 
by the appearance of my khansama, Ali Khan, who, rushing forward with 
pallid face and faltering tongue, explained that, on his way to the town, 
he had just witnessed a murder close to my gate. I was inclined at first 
to doubt his story, but, on questioning him further, was convinced that it 
was too true. Ali Khan explained that, after seeing everything settled 
for the night, he was on his way to his house in the town when his atten- 
tion was called to a scufHe between several persons a little in front of him. 


Being alarmed, he squatted down and watched, when he saw three or 
four men knock another down and cut his throat, after which they de- 
camped. On seeing this he had immediately run back to give the alarm. 
After hearing his account I exclaimed, ' Aipajee! (you low fellow) why 
did you not run and help?' Ali Khan replied, 'I was not armed, and 
therefore could give no assistance, and if I had cried out they would have 
killed me also.' 

On hearing this I immediately sent him off to turn out the guard, 
despatched the old bearer for my pistols, and taking the taper from him, 
without waiting to dress, ran off towards the place the khansama had 
pointed out. On arriving, I found the body lying on the face, weltering 
in its blood, and covered with wounds. The countenance was cut and 
slashed in every direction, the head was nearly severed from the body ; 
and even the hands and arms and legs were covered with wounds. As 
I stooped down to examine the corpse, which was still warm, a sudden 
gust of wind blew out my candle. Seeing therefore that nothing could 
be done till assistance arrived, 1 sat down, and after a few minutes which, 
in my impatience, seemed an hour, I discovered the bearer running along 
with my pistols. The old fellow did not seem to like the business, for 
after every few yards he stopped and looked back, loudly vociferating 
for the guard. However, on hearing me call, he became more assured, 
and ran up to me. In a short time a part of the guard appeared, half- 
armed and half-dressed, with flambeaux and torches. 

By this time the moon began to rise and cast her light over the plain, 
which was of much assistance to us. The first thing was to examine the 
ground, and, the soil being light and sandy, we had no difficulty in track- 
ing the murderers for some distance. In India the science of tracking, 
whether it be the marks of man or beast, is well understood, and I have 
known such adepts in the art as to be able to follow a track for hundreds 
of miles, and that too when a person unskilled in the art could discern 

I was once, with a party of villagers and police, following a number 
of thugs who had murdered five travellers on the preceding night. The 
ground was hard and covered with grass, and, beyond the marks of a 
struggle here and there, I could discern nothing, yet the men who were 
with us, after minutely examining the spot, carried the traces for many 
miles. On the way, they told me the number of men, women, children, 
and ponies of which the party consisted, and, strange to say, on their 
apprehension, which took place the next day, the description turned out 
right in every particular. 

However, to return to my story : we found that the murdered man was 
on his way from the city to my house, that he had come to a certain point 
alone, when he was suddenly attacked by several men. He had run some 
distance, when one of them headed and turned him towards the others. 


Here he had fought and been killed. The distance we examined was some 
two or three hundred yards, and in this space we found one of his shoes, 
three other pairs, the scabbard of a sword, and two bludgeons covered 
with sword-cuts and blood. 

By this time it was near twelve o'clock ; the moon had risen bright 
and cold, and we were grouped round the body. I felt much distressed : 
our search had ended in nothing; we had no definite clue to the 
murderers ; and so dreadfully was the face disfigured, that we could not 
discover the probable caste and profession of the man, much less who he 
was. I had, in my time, seen many cases of murder, but the present one 
seemed fairly to puzzle me. To think that a man should be murdered 
almost within a stone's-throw of my door and that the murderers should 
escape detection was more than I well could submit to. 

I sat down on a stone, directing some of the sepoys to clean the dead 
man's face and try to make out who he might be. What increased the 
difficulty was that the body was nearly naked, having nothing but a 
■ dhoty ' or linen cloth round the loins. The evening having been warm, 
he had evidently been walking in this state — a practice in that country 
very common with all classes, from the highest to the lowest. After 
rubbing and cleaning the face for some time, one of the guard attached 
to the collector's office called out, 'Why, I verily believe it is our comrade 
Ram Sing ! I am sure I know the curl of his moustache ; he was smoking 
with me only this evening.' After much discussion it seemed to be the 
opinion of the majority that it was Ram Sing, though some still doubted. 
So much, however, was agreed to by all, that he was missing, and that 
the deceased was about his size. Taking it for granted that it was Ram 
Sing, we began speculating who could be the murderers. 

I remarked, ' Whoever they may be, it was clearly from revenge they 
murdered him, or they never would have mangled his body in this way.' 
One of the men added, ' The man who outran and turned him must be a 
great runner, for Ram Sing was an active fellow.' ' Yes,' says another, 
1 1 see one of the shoes has an iron heel, and no one but a constant runner 
would need such a thing.' Hearing this I began to consider what class 
of men would come under this description, when it occurred to me that 
the post throughout the country was carried by footmen. Turning round, 
I remarked, * The " dawk wallahs " (postmen) are great runners : had he 
a feud with any of them ? ' A sepoy instantly exclaimed, ' Ram Sing had 
a brother named Bulram, a postman, with whose wife, as people say, he 
was rather too intimate.' ' Pooh ! ' says another, ' that is an old business, 
which Bulram well knew. Besides, who would kill his brother for such 
a thing ? ' Now it is specially necessary to remark that such connections, 
however monstrous in our eyes, are very common among the Jats, to 
whom the brothers belonged. Among them it is the practice that when 
an elder brother dies the younger lives with the wife, even though he be 


already married. Owing to this, such illicit connections as that which 
existed between Ram Sing and his brother's wife were neither so much 
thought of among themselves nor so much reprobated as might be 

Though I well knew this, I was at once satisfied that we had the 
right clue at last ; so, sending the greater part of the men back to the 
house, and ordering a horse to be sent after me, I determined to follow 
up the search. We immediately started for the town, which was about 
half-a-mile distant, and directed our steps to Bulram's house. Here we 
found the wife, who said she had not seen her husband that day, that 
he was probably at the post-house, and that the brother had been down 
that evening, had eaten his food with her, and left the house at about ten 
P.M., on his way to guard. She added that, while Ram Sing had been 
with her, another post-carrier, a friend of her husband, had come and 
inquired after him, but, finding he was not at home, had left immediately. 

Disappointed here, we bent our steps to the post-house. On entering 
the courtyard we found a number of the carriers lying on the ground fast 
asleep, and Bulram, the person we were in search of, quietly seated in a 
corner smoking his hookah. I immediately went up and addressed him 
on some indifferent topics, but so calm and self-possessed were his replies, 
that I began to think I was in error, and that he could not have com- 
mitted the deed. However, taking up a lamp, I looked steadily at his 
countenance. Though he knew my gaze was on him, he never moved a 
muscle, but continued smoking with apparent apathy, while his eye, which 
met mine, never quailed an instant. 

One of the sepoys standing by me broke the silence by exclaiming, 
* Bulram, don't you see it is the hazoor (his Honour), and yet you remain 
seated !' Bulram never moved, nor, indeed, appeared as if he heard him. 
I put down my hand, and, touching him on the shoulder, said, * Stand up, 
Bulram, I want to look at you.' I had, till then, been stooping over him, 
as he was squatting in the usual native style on the ground, and it only 
then occurred to me that he must have some reason for remaining in that 
posture. Bulram immediately stood up and, as he had nothing but the 
usual cloth about his loins, the upper part of the body was naked. I put 
my hand on his heart and said, ' What is the matter that your heart beats 
so violently ? ' He replied, ' I have been bathing, and, fearing to be late 
at the post, ran up all the way.' With all his composure and readiness 
of reply, there was something about his manner which brought back all 
my former suspicions. I stood attentively looking at him, when, all at 
once, I perceived a quantity of blood on his groin, which seemed to be 
welling out from under his dhoty. Pointing at the blood, I said, ' Ah, 
Bulram, what means this ? ' He gazed at me for an instant, and then 
said, ' Don't trouble yourself, maino itsko mara (I killed him).' Putting 
up my hand for every one to remain silent, I said, ' Whom did you kill ? ' 


He replied, 'Ram Sing, my brother; I killed him.' I added, 'Why, what 
had he done?' He said, 'He was intimate with my wife, therefore I 
killed him. 3 

On this he was handcuffed, and, leaving the house, I mounted my 
horse, which had arrived in the interim, and set out towards home. On 
the way, I questioned him as to how it was that his accomplices had 
escaped, but that he had not attempted to fly. He replied, ' How could 
I know that you would have tracked me out in this way ? They have not 
escaped, they are in the post-house on the high road.' Having ascer- 
tained who they were, I instantly despatched four horsemen to the place, 
about four miles off, to seize them. On arriving at my house, I took the 
necessary depositions of the parties and Bulram's confession. At two 
a.m. I had just retired to sleep, when I was awakened by the return of 
the policemen with the other, murderers. Hearing, however, that they 
stoutly denied their guilt, and that nothing had been found on their per- 
sons to criminate them, I ordered them to be secured, and went to sleep. 

In the morning the prisoners were confronted with Bulram, who 
steadily persisted in his story of the previous night, which the others as 
resolutely denied. In the meantime a party of trackers came in and re- 
ported that they had followed the traces from the place where the murder 
was perpetrated ; that it appeared that one man had returned direct to the 
city, and that two, after a considerable circuit, had gone into the post-house. 
I then rode down to the place with some careful men, and, after a 
diligent and protracted search, they found buried under the earthen floor 
of one of the sheds the murdered man's turban, necklace, sword, a couple 
of bludgeons spotted with blood and covered with deep cuts, as if from a 
sword or other sharp instrument. On these things being produced, the 
prisoners, who had till then denied, acknowledged the truth of Bulram's 

One of them said that, being friends of Bulram's, they had gone at his 
request to assist him ; that they had no enmity to the murdered man, but 
had acted merely from friendship to his brother. He added that he had 
gone to the wife during the day under the pretence of asking for her 
husband, who was standing at a little distance waiting for him, but, in 
reality, to see if Ram Sing were in the house ; that they then went and 
lay in the ditch by the side of the road until Ram Sing passed, when they 
sprang out on him ; that Ram Sing, though surprised, resisted desperately 
until overpowered and knocked down ; and that, as he fell, he wounded 
his brother in the groin. It was from this wound that the blood which I 
saw and supposed to be from the wounded man, had flowed, and to 
conceal which Bulram had continued seated when I was talking to him. 

During the day, the wretched woman, the cause of this horrid deed, 
hearing of the death of her lover, came and asked to see his body. She 
embraced and kissed it repeatedly, crying bitterly, and seemed to have 


no thought but for his untimely death. In the course of the subsequent 
investigation many facts were elicited which, in a measure, seemed to 
palliate the crime of Bulram. It appeared that the intimacy had existed 
many years, during which the husband had been perfectly aware of it. 
In the preceding year there had been a severe famine in the land, during 
which the husband, who was out of employ, was, with his wife, supported 
by Ram Sing, who lived with them. Some time, however, previous to 
the murder Bulram had objected to the intercourse with his wife, on 
which the brother had promised never again to visit the house. The 
wife, on hearing this, immediately left her husband and took refuge with 
her father, where, in spite of the entreaties of her own family and her hus- 
band, she insisted on remaining. The husband, seeing her determina- 
tion, went to his brother, told him what had taken place, and begged he 
would come with him and use his influence with the wife ; adding, * You 
can come to see us as before, are you not my brother? did you not save 
us from starving ? ' The wife, on this, returned with them, and, a few 
days afterwards, the catastrophe which I have related took place. 

The murderers were made over for trial to the circuit court, where 
Bulram, the husband, was sentenced to be hanged, and the other two to 
imprisonment for life. Such is my tale. It created a great sensation at 
the time, and Ram Sing's fate was universally regretted, whereas no one 
seemed to pity Bulram. The general feeling appeared to be, * Was not 
Ram Sing his brother ? — how could he murder him ? ' 
. Delhi : March 4, 1845. 

Nor were John Lawrence's zeal and activity confined to his own 
district, vast as it was. He sometimes made work or sought it for 
himself outside the Paniput district, and with the best results. Here 
is an instance. It attracted much attention at the time from the 
high position held by the murdered man, and from the romantic 
circumstances which led to the detection of the murderer. John 
Lawrence was fond of telling the story, and more than one version 
of it has, I believe, appeared in print. From the last of these, 
which appeared in 'Blackwood's Magazine' for January 1878, and 
came then fresh from Lord Lawrence's lips, I gather and condense 
the following, adding one or two characteristic incidents which seem, 
in his old age, to have escaped his memory, but were certainly told by 
him as part of the story on other occasions. 

On the morning of March 23, 1835, John Lawrence was just going 
to his bath at Paniput after many hours of work, when he received a 
brief note in Persian from one of his police, stating that news had 
come from Delhi that, on the preceding evening, as William Fraser, 
the Commissioner, was returning from a visit to a neighbouring Raja, 


a native trooper had ridden up to him and, firing his carbine into his 
' sacred body,' had killed him on the spot. 

William Fraser was a man of great force of character and deser- 
vedly popular among all classes, though his regard for the poor had 
often brought him in collision with members of the aristocracy. l He was 
also a great friend of John Lawrence. Grieved at the loss of his- 
friend, and thinking that his intimate acquaintance with every corner 
of Delhi might be of assistance in discovering the murderer, Lawrence 
instantly ordered his horse, and rode off to Delhi beneath the 
blazing sun, a distance of forty miles. There he learned from Thomas 
Metcalfe and from Simon Fraser, the two senior civil officers left in 
the station, that no clue to the murderer had yet been found, and that 
though some Goojurs — a race famed for their skill as trackers — had 
succeeded in following the footprints of his horse from the scene of 
the murder for some distance in the direction of Delhi, they had 
failed to trace them beyond a point where several roads met. 

This did not look promising. A casual remark which had been 
made by one, Futteh Khan, to Metcalfe, to the effect that he should 
not wonder if his nephew, the Nawab of Ferozepore, knew something 
about the murder, was reported to Lawrence. Metcalfe had dis- 
missed it from his mind as suggested by motives of private animosity, 
but John Lawrence fastened upon it like a leech, and, soon dis- 
covering that the Nawab had had a quarrel with William Fraser 
about some land, he forthwith proceeded, with Simon Fraser, to a 
house in Delhi which belonged to that chieftain. 

They found no one in the courtyard, nor did any voice from 
within answer to their repeated calls. Simon Fraser entered the 
house, and, during his absence, John Lawrence, sauntering up to a 
spot in the yard where a fine chestnut horse was tethered, began to 
examine his points, and soon noticed some nail-marks on a part of 
the hoof where they are not usually found. It flashed across him in 
an instant that it had been reported that Dick Turpin had sometimes 
reversed the shoes of his horse's hoofs to put his pursuers off the 
scent, and, at that same moment, one of the Goojurs, picking up a 
straw, measured carefully both the hind and fore hoofs. ' Sahib,' he 
cried, ' there is just one straw's difference in breadth between them, 

1 For an account cf William Fraser and his achievements, see the very able and 
interesting article on these volumes, contributed to the Quarterly Review for 
April, 1883, by Colonel Henry Yule. 

VOL. I. F 


the very thing that we observed in the tracks on the road ; this must 
be the animal ridden by the murderer.' 

While this was being said and done, a trooper in undress lounged 
up and, in reply to a question or two, told John Lawrence that he 
was an orderly of the Nawab of Ferozepore, and that he had been 
sent by his master on a special mission to the city. ' This is a nice 
horse,' said Lawrence. ' Yes,' replied the man, 'he is a fine horse, 
but he is very weak and off his feed ; he has been able to do no 
work for a week.' The appearance of the horse, so John Lawrence 
thought, gave the lie to this, and, espying at a little distance its 
saddle and other harness lying on the ground, he went up to it and, 
finding that the nosebag underneath the heap was full of corn, quietly 
slung it over the horse's head. The ' sickly ' animal began to eat 
greedily. Here was one link more, and, without saying anything to 
excite the trooper's suspicion, he induced him to accompany him to 
the cutcherry, where he ordered his immediate arrest. 

Some fragments of note-paper, which Simon Fraser had meanwhile 
picked up in a bucket of water in the house, were now fitted together 
by the two men. The ink had been all but obliterated by the water, 
but some chemicals revived it, and revealed the words written in 
Persian, ' You know the object for which I sent you into Delhi ; and 
I have repeatedly told you how very important it is for me that you 
should buy the dogs. If you have not done so, do it without delay.' 

It hardly needed John Lawrence's penetration, with the threads 
which he already held in his hands, to discover that ' the dogs ' were 
the Commissioner, whose life the trooper had been too long in taking, 
and, on his suggestion, a message was sent to the Nawab saying that 
his presence in Delhi was necessary, as a servant of his, Wassail Khan 
by name, was suspected of the murder of the Commissioner. The 
Nawab obeyed the summons, but, of course, he backed up the trooper 
in his denial, and disclaimed all knowledge of the murder. 

Inquiries which were set on foot in the Nawab's territories, while 
he was detained at Delhi, soon showed that a second man on foot, 
whose name was Unyah Meo, was believed to have been present at 
the time of the murder. He was a freebooter, well known for his 
extraordinary strength and fleetness of foot. He had disappeared on 
that very night, and had not been seen since. Colonel Skinner, the 
well-known commandant of Skinner's Irregular Horse, was charged 
with the duty of searching for him. His whereabouts was soon dis- 
covered, communications opened with him, and promises of pardon 


made if he would give himself up and turn King's evidence against 
the murderer. Not long afterwards a man appeared by night and 
said, ' I am Unyah Meo, I will go with you.' 

His story was soon told, and, simple truth as it was, it reads like 
a story from Herodotus about the ancient Persian court, or like a 
tale from the ' Arabian Nights,' rather than what it really was. He 
had been sent, as it appeared, by the Nawab, with instructions to 
accompany the trooper on all occasions, and should the first shot 
fail to kill the Commissioner, who was not likely, with his well-known 
character, to die easily, he was to run in and despatch him with his 
sword. Wassail Khan's first shot had passed clean through the 
1 sacred body ' of the Commissioner, so Unyah Meo's services were 
not required ; but he hurried off at once to tell his master that the 
deed was done. 

All that night and a good part of the next day he ran, and, to- 
wards the evening, arrived at the Nawab's fort at Ferozepore, ninety 
miles distant. He went straight to the door of the Nawab's room, 
and demanded immediate admittance, as he had news of importance 
to communicate. A thick curtain only shut off the presence-chamber 
from the ante-room, and, as the orderly entered, Unyah Meo, with 
the suspicion natural to one of his profession, lifted up very slightly 
a corner of the curtain and bent down, all eye, all ear, for what might 
follow. He heard the Nawab give orders that on his leaving the 
room he should on no account be allowed to leave the fort. Well 
knowing, now that the deed was done, that his death would be more 
serviceable to his master than his life, Unyah felt that this order 
was a sentence of death, and the moment he had told his story, and 
had been promised a large reward — for which he was to wait till the 
following morning — he slipped quietly down a back way, managed 
to leave the fort unobserved, and ran for his life to his cottage in 
the jungle, some seven miles away. 

He was tired out by the ninety miles he had run already ; but 
fear gave him fresh strength and speed, and he reached his home 
just in time for his wives— of whom he was blessed with a pair — to 
take him up to the flat roof of the house and conceal him under 
some bundles of straw. Soon the troopers, whose pursuing feet he 
had seemed to hear close behind him, appeared upon the scene. 
But the wives, Rahab-like, kept the secret well, and Unyah, after a 
night's rest, escaped, like the spies, to the hills, and defied every 
effort to find him till he gave himself up of his own accord, in the 


manner I have already described, to the commander of Skinner's 

Unyah's story was borne out by the accidental discovery of the 
carbine which had been used by Wassail Khan, under circumstances 
which were quite in keeping with the other marvellous features of 
the case. A woman was drawing water from a well close to the 
Cabul gate of Delhi ; the rope broke, the bucket fell into the water, 
and the hook used to recover it brought up, not the bucket, but the 
missing carbine ! Other people deposed that they had seen the 
trooper return on the night of the murder with his horse — the horse 
which could neither work nor eat ! — in a tremendous lather, as though 
from a long or rapid ride. The Nawab and his trooper still stoutly 
denied all knowledge of the crime, but they were tried by a special 
commissioner, found guilty, and hanged together before the Cashmere 
gate of the city. 

It is a story which John Lawrence might well be fond of telling, 
and it is not without a strange and tragic interest to remark that 
Simon Fraser, the cousin, who had helped him in the search, was 
the very man who twenty-two years later, when he, in his turn, was 
Commissioner of Delhi, was to fall one of the first victims to the 
fury of the mutineers, in the Mogul's palace, on May 11, 1857. It 
did not need a similar display of sagacity on John Lawrence's part 
to discover, on that occasion, who the murderers were; for the deed 
and its accompaniments seemed to shake our Indian Empire to its 
base ; but it did need all his sagacity, all his courage, and all his 
other manly qualities to undo what they had done ; and how he 
was equal to the occasion will appear in the later portion of this 

Here is a story of another pursuit which, though it failed in its 
immediate object — the arrest of the criminal — served, when put side 
by side with the preceding, to deepen the feelings of admiration with 
which the natives regarded their intrepid and dare-devil ruler. 

There was a notorious robber in the district of Paniput whom 
John Lawrence was anxious to seize. The man had been caught once, 
but his wife had bribed the guard and he had escaped. He had com- 
mitted several murders, and, one day, John Lawrence, receiving 
information that he was to sleep that night in a cottage not far distant, 
at once organised a party of horse and foot and, without communica- 
ting his intention to any one, started, about ten at night, for the village. 
It was a fine moonlight night, and a few miles' ride brought them to 


a river which must needs be crossed. Lawrence had hoped to find 
boats on the spot, but they had been taken away to a neighbouring 
fair, and only one small boat was left, which, though it was large 
enough to carry the foot police across, would have to take many trips 
if it was to carry over the horsemen also. 

Time pressed. 'We must swim it,' said John Lawrence. His 
followers demurred ; said there were quicksands, said the stream was 
too rapid, and they would all be swept away. ' Well, you cowards 
may do what you like, but I am going,' said John, and in he plunged 
and swam his horse out into mid stream. The russeldar, seeing this, 
took courage, said it was a shame to leave the Sahib to go forward 
alone, and crying out, ' I fear we shall both be drowned ! ' he too 
plunged in on horseback and was followed by the others. But his 
fears were not altogether ill-grounded. The horsemen had nearly 
reached the other side in safety when they came on one of the quick- 
sands. This immediately scattered the whole body of them. Some 
managed to ford over, some were thrown from their horses, and all 
was confusion. Lawrence's horse was a powerful animal, and plunged 
so violently that his rider was thrown into the river, and, with great 
difficulty, reached the bank. There he found the horsemen all as- 
sembled, and said to them, ' You see we are all safe after all.' ' No,' 
was the reply, ' the russeldar is drowned.' ' What ! ' said Lawrence, 
1 the bravest of the whole lot of you ! Let us go in again and see if 
we can save him.' But none of them would stir ; they looked on 
with that placid indifference with which Orientals often regard the 
fate of other people, and — it must be added in fairness — often also 
their own, and, in spite of the objurgations of the magistrate, they 
showed no intention of risking their own lives to save that of their 

Once more John Lawrence plunged in on foot, and soon perceived 
the russeldar struggling at a short distance from the bank. He had 
got under his horse, and though he managed to keep his head above 
water, he was evidently fast losing his strength and senses. John 
swam to him and supported him by main strength till his syce brought 
a rope, and then they succeeded in dragging the drowning man to 
land. He thus saved the man's life, but got a bad kick from the 
plunging horse. 

In much pain he pursued his way to the village, and found that, 
though ' the nest was still warm ' and the wife and children were 
within, the object of his search was not at home. The fact was, that 


the night was sultry and the man had gone up to the top of the house 
to sleep. 

A few minutes later he was seen looking over the parapet, and, 
as quick as thought, John Lawrence was on the roof and full tilt after 
him. The murderer, a man of great strength and stature, as well as 
speed, ran along the roofs of the houses, which were all flat and joined 
each other. Finding that his pursuer was close behind him, and 
knowing the ground well, the man jumped down. Lawrence followed 
him, but jumped too far, and, alighting on a declivity, managed to 
dislocate his ankle, thus rendering further pursuit hopeless. The 
robber escaped for the time, but was caught not long afterwards. In 
any case John Lawrence lost no caste in the eyes of his followers. 
They only wondered the»more at the uncanny, the unaccountable 
eccentricities of the man who could have the courage to hang a raja, 
and yet risk his life to save a russeldar ! 

I conclude this chapter with the story of one more adventure — 
the discovery of a robber — which is hardly less striking than those 
which I have already related. It is one which I have heard Lord 
Lawrence tell himself, as none but he could tell it. But I prefer to 
give it in the more strictly accurate form in which it has come into 
my hands, having been written down, like the story of ' The Brothers,' 
by Mrs. John Lawrence, at her husband's dictation, in the spring of 
1845, only a few years, that is, after the events related in it happened. 
It contains, incidentally, some interesting personal details, and is rich 
in its observation of the native character. 

The Widow and her Money-bags. 

It was my practice in India, where every one who wishes to preserve 
health either walks or rides early in the morning, instead of taking a 
mere constitutional (as it is called), to endeavour to join that object with 
business, or, at any rate, with amusement. There was always some end 
in view — a village to visit, a new road to be made, or an old one to be 
repaired, the spot where a murder had been perpetrated to be examined. 
If I was in tents, making my annual visits in the interior of the district^ 
which seldom occupied less than five months of the year, there was 
plenty to engage the attention. I seldom failed to visit every village 
within a circle of seven or eight miles before the camp moved on another 
march. Their locality, the nature of their soil, their means of irrigation 
— a point of much importance in the East — the general appearance of the 
inhabitants, and the character they bore among their neighbours, were 


all points on which I was much interested ; for all such information was 
of infinite value in the performance of my daily duties. 

I had, in truth, so much to occupy me, or, what is pretty much the 
same thing, made so much occupation for myself, that, though often the 
sole European in the district, and literally without any one with whom 
I could exchange a word in my native tongue, I do not think that I ever 
felt listless for a day. I sometimes rede alone, but more frequently with 
a single horseman, who either carried my rifle or boar spear. Thus, if 
anything in the way of game turned up, I did not lose a chance ; and if a 
messenger was required, or anything was to be done, an active fellow was 
always ready. More than once I have in this way brought home a buck ; 
and many is the good run I have had with wolf, hyaena, and wild boar. 
It would, no doubt, have enhanced the pleasure to have had a friend 
with whom to contest the spear, and to talk over the turns and chances 
of the field when ended. Still, when I look back on those days, it is 
surprising how much I enjoyed them in my comparative solitude. 

Nor was I thus always lonely. At times, a friend or two from the 
nearest station would pass a week with me, or a rendezvous on the borders 
of contiguous districts would be arranged among us, and then the woods 
would ring with whoop and cry and wild halloa. Oh, those were plea- 
sant days ! I hope some are still in store for me, for the easy, quiet, 
jogtrot life does not answer for one who has lived a life of action. I re- 
commend all my friends to think twice before they leave India ; at any 
rate, until they feel themselves growing old, or want a pair of crutches. 
It is but a melancholy pleasure, after all, merely looking back upon such 

However, to return to my story, from which I have strangely digressed. 
My follower was instructed to ride at a respectful distance, so that I 
might freely converse with any one I might pick up by the way. One or 
more of the headmen, or some of the proprietors of the village I was 
visiting, usually mounted his mare, and rode with me to the next village ; 
thus acting as a guide, and, at the same time, beguiling the tedium of the 
way, often, with useful information, at any rate, with amusing gossip. 

I had, one morning, mounted my horse for such an expedition, but 
had not proceeded far when I met the kotwal, or chief police-officer of 
the neighbouring town, bustling along in quite unwonted haste. On 
seeing me, after making the usual salutations, he reported that a burglary 
had occurred in the town during the previous night, and that he was 
anxious that I should visit the spot myself, as neither he nor any of the 
police could make anything of the case. 

I at once assented, and, as we rode along, I ascertained that the 
party robbed was a poor widow, who, with her niece, lived in a large and 
substantial but rather dilapidated house in the neighbouring town. The 
robbery, it seemed, had created much sensation, from the circumstance 


that the widow asserted that she had lost a large sum of money, whereas 
she had hitherto been deemed miserably poor. ' Some of the neighbours,' 
remarked the policeman, 'deny that she has been robbed at all, and 
indeed to me it appears suspicious ; I suspect there is some fareb (deceit) 
in the matter. Where could such a helpless creature get so much money ? 
It was but the other day that she was exempted from her quota of the 
watch-tax, as mooflis (a beggar), and now she asserts that she has lost 
one thousand and fifty rupees.' 'Well, well,' said I, 'that will do; we 
will hear what she has to say for herself. Don't you pretend to make 
•out that she was not robbed. I suppose there are marks about the house 
of a forcible entry.' ' Oh, yes,' he replied, ' I don't deny there is a hole 
in the wall by which the door has been opened. There were two marks 
of footsteps about the interior of the courtyard, but the ground was so 
hard, we could make nothing of it. I have, however, sent for the khogea 
(tracker), and, if anything is to be discovered, I am sure he is the man 
to do it.' 

By this time we had arrived at the house, where we found some 
policemen, some of the neighbours, and the widow. The khogea, or 
personage celebrated far and near for his powers of recognising and 
tracing the marks of biped and quadruped, had already examined the 
premises. He informed me that the footsteps were difficult to trace, 
from the hardness of the soil, as well as from the passing and repassing 
of the people ; but that he had satisfied himself that there had been two 
thieves, both of whom had entered the house, while only one appeared to 
have left it, and that he had followed the traces, through various turnings 
and windings, till they finally stopped at the house of a man . who was 
said to be the nephew of the widow herself. He then showed me the dif- 
ferent marks, from the interior of the widow's house up to the very threshold 
of that of the nephew. There were certainly some traces, but so very 
indistinct to my eye that I could form no opinion. The tracker, however, 
seemed perfectly convinced. ' One foot,' he observed, ' is small and 
delicate, which goes to the nephew's house ; the other, a large broad foot, 
I cannot trace beyond the courtyard.' The nephew was summoned, his 
foot was compared with the print, the khogea insisted that it exactly 
corresponded, and it certainly answered to the description he had pre- 
viously given. 

We then entered the house and carefully examined the premises. 
The thieves, it seemed, had picked a small hole in the side of the wall, 
so as to admit a man's hand, and had thus opened the outer door. It 
was clear that the theft was perpetrated by some one who was well 
acquainted with the premises, for the money had been concealed in three 
earthen pots, buried in the ground floor within a small recess. The 
ground had been dug up in the exact spot where the pots lay, and it 
must have been the work of only a few minutes, for they were close to 


the surface. It seemed that there was some suspicion of the nephew in 
the mind of both the old woman and her neighbours, for he was a man 
of reckless and dissolute habits. ' But, widow,' I said, ' did he know of 
your treasures ? — did he know of the place where you concealed them ? ' 
' No,' she replied to my query, ' I can't say he did. I never let him come 
into the house for many years, though he has sometimes come as near as 
the door, and asked me to make friends ; but I was afraid of him, and 
never let him pass my threshold.' ' Well,' I remarked, ' it seems a bad 
business. That you have been robbed is evident, but there seems no 
clue as to who did it ; and, as to your loss, you must have told a lie, 
for I hear it was only a few months ago that, under the plea of destitu- 
tion, you were exempted from the watch-tax.' ' My lord,' replied the 
widow, * it is very true that I pleaded poverty, and poor enough I am ; 
nevertheless I have been robbed of a thousand and fifty rupees. You 
may believe me or not, as you please ; my history is this. Some forty 
years ago, or more, my husband was a merchant, well-to-do in this town ; 
but after a time his affairs fell into disorder, and when he died his 
creditors seized everything but this house in payment for his debts. 
When dying, he told me that certain moneys had long been due to him 
in the holy city of Muttra. Accordingly I went there, and collected 
something more than two thousand rupees, with which I returned here, 
and I have lived ever since on this sum.' ' What,' I interrupted, ' have 
you lived on this money for forty years and yet have a thousand and 
fifty rupees, nearly half, left ? ' ' Yes,' said she, ' I opened my treasure 
once a month, and took out two rupees, which lasted me and my niece 
for the month.' ' Why,' I remarked, ' at this rate, you had enough for 
the next forty years ; why could you not pay the tax ? — how much was 
it?' 'Two pyce a month,' she replied, 'and all widows are exempt.' 
1 Yes,' remarked a bystander, ' if they are poor ; but you are as rich as 
Lakhsmi (the Hindu goddess of fortune). I believe that Kali has sent 
this misfortune on you for your lying ; do you recollect when you were 
assessed at one anna, how you wept and tore your hair, and said you 
were starving ? You are a sad liar, by your own account, and are well 
served. I hope, if you ever recover your money, the Sahib will make 
you pay it up with arrears.' ' Oh,' said the widow, clasping her hands, 
* restore me my money, and I will pay for the rest of my life.' 

As I suspected, from the different circumstances which had transpired, 
that the nephew was in some way connected with the robbery, I directed 
his house to be searched, but nothing which could in any way implicate 
him was found. Despairing, then, of discovering the criminal, I mounted 
my horse, and after telling the police to be on the look-out, I set off 
towards my tents. I had ridden some little way, conning the matter over 
in my mind, when it struck me how very singular it was, that the khogea 
should persist in it that only one of the thieves had left the house. As 


the walls were very high, and as there was but the one door to the court- 
yard, it seemed as if the thief must still be inside. ' Pooh, pooh ! ' I cried, 
1 the thing is out of the question ; did we not search the house ? And, 
after all, what could a thief be doing there ? The khogea is trying to 
mystify me.' However, I was not satisfied : after riding a little further, 
I turned round and galloped back. I said to the police, who had not 
yet left, 'We must have another search,' and, upon this, my myrmi- 
dons spread themselves over the premises. While they were searching 
I began to pace up and down, with some little impatience, I confess, as 
the thought struck me of the bootless errand on which I had returned. 

Suddenly I heard a policeman exclaim, ' I have not seen him, but I 
have seen his eye, 5 and, as he spoke, he pointed to one side of the court- 
yard near where he stood. On examining the spot we discovered what 
appeared to be a small air-hole to some vaults, and from this the man 
persisted he had seen an eye glisten. Turning to the widow, I demanded 
what places there were underground, when she explained that there were 
subterraneous vaults which had never been open since her husband's 
death, and which she had not thought of mentioning when we first 
searched the house. ' A second case of Guy Fawkes,' thought I. ' Show 
me the entrance. I dare say some one is down there ; though why any- 
one should be such a fool as to hide there passes my understanding.' 
The old dame accordingly showed me a small door in a retired part of 
the courtyard, which had hitherto escaped observation. By it we 
descended to some very extensive vaults, and, after some search, dragged 
out a man. He had not the money about his person, but after some 
little hesitation showed us where it was concealed, at the foot of one of 
the pillars. He confessed that he belonged to a village in the vicinity, 
and that he had been induced by the nephew to join him in robbing the 
old lady, whose treasures he had for a long time suspected. It seemed 
that the thief had slept, part of the night, in the nephew's house, and that 
they had been prevented from effecting the robbery till late in the night 
from the numbers of the people who were about, and, consequently, the 
morning had broken before they had time to divide the booty, or dispose 
of it in any safe place. In the hurry and confusion it had seemed best 
that he should hide in the vaults, where it was supposed that no one 
would think of looking ; for the nephew was afraid to conceal him in his 
own house, or to allow him to pass out of the town with such a large sum 
in silver, lest, being recognised by some of the guards at the postern as a 
stranger, he should be stopped and searched. When the nephew was 
confronted with his accomplice, his effrontery forsook him, and he con- 
fessed that he had seen the old woman smoothing the earth in the recess 
one day as he stood at the threshold ; and, from this circumstance, 
coupled with her always being in that part of the house, he had suspected 
that she had property concealed. 


When the coin was produced, the woman recognised her money-bags ; 
and on opening and counting the money, we found the exact sum she had 
stated, namely, one thousand and fifty rupees, or about one hundred and 
five pounds in English money ; so that this poor creature had lived on 
about four shillings a month, and even supported, part of that time, a 
little niece ! While the money was being counted and her receipt written 
out, I said, ' You had much better give this money to a banker, who will 
allow you seven or eight per cent, for it, and in whose hands it will be 
perfectly safe ; otherwise, now that folks know you are so rich, being 
a lonely helpless old woman, you will certainly have your throat cut/ 
1 No, no ! ' cried the old harridan, as she grasped her bags in an agony 
lest I should take them from her, ' no, no ! I will bury it where no one 
will ever know.' I accordingly allowed her to go off with her treasures ; 
and out she tottered, bending under the weight of her money-bags. 

I may have failed in giving an interest to this story, but it certainly 
made a considerable impression on my mind at the time. The avarice 
and parsimony of the old woman who, bending under the weight of old 
age, and possessed of wealth which she could never hope to enjoy, yet 
grudged the payment of two pyce a month to defend her from spoliation, 
if not from being murdered ; the villany of the nephew, with his utter 
want of common sense and prudence in concealing his accomplice in the 
very premises which they had just robbed ; the acuteness and discern- 
ment of the tracker, in so ably, L may say, deciphering the history of the 
transaction from the very faint footmarks, — altogether formed a picture 
which it was not uninteresting to contemplate. Of the subsequent fate of 
the widow I do not recollect anything, as I shortly afterwards left that 
part of the country ; but if she escaped being robbed, she concealed her 
treasures in some out-of-the-way place, which, when she dies, her heirs 
will fail to discover. In this way, no doubt, large sums are. annually lost, 
for although property is remarkably safe in this country, and a very large 
rate of interest always to be got, the people are very much addicted to 
concealing coin and jewels, probably from habits they acquired in former 
times, when seldom a year passed that a village or even town was not laid 
under contribution, or stormed and plundered by the Mahratta and Pindarj 

Delhi : April 14, 1845. 




The disappointment which befell John Lawrence when in 1837 he 
was compelled to leave the Paniput district, the field of his hard 
work and his success, and to fall back on his subordinate position at 
Delhi, is one to which any civilian in India who takes an ' acting ' 
appointment, as it is called, is liable. So few people are able to 
descend with anything like a good grace to lower work when they 
have already proved themselves capable, and more than capable, of 
higher, that it is not to be wondered at that there is a general 
feeling in India against taking such temporary appointments. This, 
however, was not John Lawrence's feeling ; for, when, in 1842, he 
was returning to India after his first furlough, the bit of practical 
advice which most impressed itself on the mind of a young civilian 
who was then going out for the first time, and with whom he had 
much talk, was to the following effect : — 

Never let an acting appointment, if it should be offered to you, slip by. 
People will tell you that such appointments are to be avoided, and are 
more plague than profit. It is true that you may occasionally be disap- 
pointed, and you will certainly not gain continuous promotion in that line, 
but you will get what is more valuable, experience, and great variety of it ; 
and this will fit you for whatever may come afterwards. I have never 
let an ' acting ' appointment go by, and I am now very glad that I have 

The young civilian to whom John Lawrence gave this parting 
advice between Malta and Alexandria was W. S. Seton-Karr, who, 
though he was not destined to see much of his adviser for many 
years to come, was, in his subordinate position under Lord Dalhousie, 
to hear not a little of his fame, and to read not a few of his masterly 
minutes, and was, many years later, when John Lawrence had risen 
to be Governor-General, to be his Foreign Secretary ; after that, was 


to be one of the most constant and welcome visitors at his house at 
Queen's Gate, ending only with the Sunday before his death ; and 
then, at the great meeting of the Mansion House, called to raise a 
national monument to the hero who was gone, was to deliver one of 
the most eloquent and appreciative of a series of admirable speeches, 
which, in themselves, form the most splendid of tributes to Lord 
Lawrence's memory. Since then, once more — as it seems specially 
suitable that I should acknowledge here— he has given a still more 
signal proof of his attachment to his former chief ; for, by a careful 
perusal of the whole of the revised manuscripts of these volumes, he 
has enabled me to correct many inaccuracies as well as given me the 
benefit of many sound criticisms and useful suggestions. 

The sting of the descent to lower work did not last long ; for, 
after three months spent in his old appointment at Delhi, John 
Lawrence was promoted to the grade of 'joint magistrate and deputy- 
collector of the southern division of the Delhi territory,' while he 
was also to be the ' acting ' magistrate and collector of the city itself. 
After discharging this latter office, which his previous acquaintance 
with all classes in Delhi must have made comparatively easy, for six 
months, he went off, in July 1836, to his 'substantive' appointment 
in the southern division. The work, the country, the people of the 
southern division, differed in many respects from the northern, and 
so tended to give him that variety of experience on which he placed 
so much value. Extending, as it did, over an area of about 2,000 
square miles, and containing a population of 700,000 souls, of whom, 
probably, one half were Hindus, the other half Mohammedans, it 
included representatives of all the races with whom he had become 
acquainted in Paniput. 

But, besides these, there were many others, such as the Meenas 
and Mehwatties, of whom he had no previous knowledge. These 
people were great robbers, perhaps the greatest in Northern India. 
In former times, they had been organised plunderers, roaming about 
the country almost in small armies, and harrying the villages with 
fire and sword up to the very walls of Delhi. Even now, though 
restrained from open violence and proving under a strong govern- 
ment almost a docile people, they were very thievish in their 
propensities, and gave abundant proof that they only wanted oppor- 
tunity to fall back on their old habits. Like the Ranghurs of the 
northern district, they were all Mohammedans who had been con- 
verted from Hinduism as late as the time of Aurungzebe, and, of 


course, retained many of their Hindu customs and traditions. Many 
a conversation did John Lawrence have with them on those good old 
times. They talked as freely with him as he with them, and frankly 
avowed that they looked back regretfully on the palmy days when, to 
use the words of their favourite adage, 'the buffalo belonged to 
him who held the bludgeon ' — -Jiskee lattce oosee ka bhains. 

The district was particularly well adapted for the indulgence of 
their predatory propensities. It was irregularly shaped, was bordered 
•on two sides by independent chieftainships, and was intersected by 
many low ranges of hills and by the deep beds of hill-torrents which 
ran dry in all seasons except during the rains, and, like the wadies 
of the Arabian or Syrian deserts, served as the resort of banditti, who 
sallied out thence on any travellers who ventured to pass without 
sufficient escort. ' Many a strange story,' says John Lawrence, ' did 
the people of the country tell of the doings of their ancestors in this 

The difficulties of ruling such a people were not lessened by the 
calamitous drought which in 1837-38 had fallen on many parts of 
Upper India and, following so soon after that of 1833-34, had caused 
great suffering, even when it did not reach the dread extremity of 
actual starvation. The chief force of the visitation fell on the native 
states of Rajpootana, Bhurtpore, and Bundelkhund ; but the Agra 
division of the North-West Provinces, including the districts of Agra, 
Etawa, and Mynpoorie, also suffered much, and there was terrible 
loss of life. In John Lawrence's own district, though the distress 
was great, no lives were lost. The soil, unlike the clay of many 
parts of Northern India, which bakes as hard as iron, is of a light 
porous character, and does not need much rain. Moreover, the 
district was well supplied with wells and jheels which could be used 
for the purpose of irrigation. Thus it happened that, owing to the 
constant care and energy of John Lawrence and his colleague, the 
well-known Martin Gubbins, notwithstanding the general distress 
and the predatory and warlike character of the people ; notwithstand- 
ing also the fact that not one single soldier was stationed in the 
district ; yet crime and violence were kept within moderate limits. 
If they did not actually decrease, they did not increase ; and there 
are times and occasions when, to be able to say with truth that 
crimes of violence have not increased, is tantamount to saying that 
extraordinary exertions have been crowned by the success which 
they deserve. 


And here I may insert a story which gives a forcible picture of 
•one of the difficulties with which a magistrate had in those days to 
deal almost singlehanded— -a difficulty, moreover, which, as recent 
events in Mooltan and elsewhere have shown, has not, even now, 
wholly disappeared. I give it with some considerable abridgment, 
but, as far as possible, in John Lawrence's own words, for they show 
the man throughout, and exhibit in strong relief his courage, his 
vigour, and his readiness of resource. 

Passive Resistance. 

In the spring of 1838, when the famine which had for some time 
afflicted the north-western provinces of India was still raging, it happened 
that I was encamped not far from the town of Rewari. The pergunnah 
(or barony) was just surveyed, and I had come down to that part of the 
country to settle the land revenue for a term of thirty years. While 
I was there, a feud arose between the Mussulman and Hindu inhabitants 
•of the town, which, but for the interference of the authorities on the spot, 
would, most unquestionably, have ended in bloodshed, if not in a partial 
insurrection. The point in dispute arose from a well-known prejudice of 
the Hindus against the slaughter of the ox, which they hold to be a sacred 
animal. The Mussulmans, on the other hand, wished to eat beef, as it 
was cheaper than either mutton or goat ; and though they formed only 
a small minority of the population, they seemed determined now at length 
to get their way. Year after year they had begged for permission to kill 
the forbidden animal within the walls, or even at any reasonable distance 
outside. But it had all been in vain, for the Hindus vowed that they 
would have recourse to force if their religious scruples were disregarded, 
and so the Mussulmans remained dissatisfied and oppressed. 

At last, the leading members of the Mussulman population brought 
me, one day, when I was in camp, a fresh entreaty worded in somewhat 
the following manner : ' Hail, cherisher of the poor ! Be it known unto 
your enlightened excellency, that for many years the Hindus of this town 
have, by their lying and deceitful representations to the highest autho- 
rities, prevented the Mussulmans from killing cattle, under the plea that 
those animals are sacred. Our lords, the English, have hitherto made it 
their rule to prevent one class of their subjects from tyrannising over 
another, and have dealt out impartial justice to all, making no distinction 
between caste, creed, colour, or race. Indeed, such is the protection which 
all enjoy, that it may be said that the wolf and the lamb drink from the 
same ghaut. What, then, have we oppressed creatures done, that we are 
denied the benefits which all others enjoy ? Trusting that you will take 
our grievous case into speedy consideration, and issue an order enabling 
us to eat beef, we pray that on you the sun of prosperity may ever shine 


gloriously.' Such was the petition which, on that day, was read out in 
open court before several hundreds of Hindus and Mussulmans. Every- 
one around could see and hear all that was going on, as the canvas walls 
of the tent were taken down on three sides. 

While the petition was being read, the audience preserved a respect- 
ful silence ; the Mussulmans stood anxiously expecting my decision, and 
I observed the Hindus furtively glancing at my countenance to read, if 
possible, therein, the order about to be issued. I may here remark that 
no people in the world are more observant of character, or more quick or 
able judges of it, than those of Hindustan. They seem, by a kind of 
intuition, to understand every movement and every gesture. Nor is this 
surprising. Subject for so many centuries to rulers whose will is law, the 
ability to comprehend the character and anticipate the thoughts of their 
masters has become a necessary part of their education. 

I felt that both law and equity were on the side of the Mussul- 
mans, but seeing how strong was the feeling of opposition among the 
Hindus, and what an infringement of a long-standing custom it would 
be, I advised them to make a formal application to the Commissioner,, 
as superintendent of police, who forthwith sent an order permitting the 
slaughter of cattle. I fixed upon a spot for this operation about three- 
quarters of a mile from the town, hoping thus to soften the blow to the 
Hindus. But their rage and indignation knew no bounds, and I was 
continually beset wherever I moved with petitioners. Finding me in- 
exorable they returned to their homes, to deliberate with their friends. 
They waited in ominous peace until the festival of the Mohurram, six 
weeks later, came round, then suddenly rose, and attacked the Mussulman 
procession with all manner of weapons, bricks, stones, and even dead 
pigs and dogs, animals to which ' the faithful ' have the greatest abhor- 

The confusion and tumult which ensued were tremendous, and a 
desperate affray and loss of life would have been the result, had not the 
tahsildar, a native of much force of character and self-won influence in 
the place, hastily summoned the police to the spot, and put himself, 
though a Hindu and a Brahmin, at the head of the Mussulman proces- 
sion, and conducted it in safety through the town. The parties separated, 
mutually breathing vengeance against each other ; the Muslims swearing 
by their fathers' graves that they would wash out the insult in the blood 
of every Hindu in the town, even if they died, to a man, the martyr's 

The tahsildar was thankful for his success so far, but felt that the 
presence of the magistrate alone could arrest further mischief, and ac- 
cordingly sent special messengers for me to the place where business 
had called me. I was in camp, forty miles off, in a straight line, but 
with a range of steep and pathless hills between, necessitating a circuitous 


route some twenty miles longer ; so the information did not reach me 
till about noon the following day. Here was a pleasant communication for 
me ; the hot wind was blowing a perfect simoon, and it required no 
small spirit of adventure at such a season to face the heat and sand over 
that wild country. Something, however, was to be done, and that 
quickly ; so, after taking ten minutes to consider, I summoned some of 
the neighbouring villagers, and asked if they knew the direct paths 
over the hills, and whether they would engage to conduct me across. 
They replied that they knew the way well enough, but that it was quite 
impracticable for any but men on foot, or for goats. ' Never mind,' 
I replied, ' I can go and you can show me the way.' When a Sahib says 
he will do a thing, a native is too polite to oppose it, and acquiesces. 
The servants were at once sent forward with some clothes to push on as 
best they could ; the others with the camp and baggage were to follow 
later ; while a guide started at once to wait at the base of the hill till 
the heat of the day had sufficiently subsided for me to venture across the 

At three P.M. I mounted my best Arab, and, with one mounted orderly, 
started for the hill, at the foot of which I found the guide waiting. We 
dismounted, and led our horses up the steep ascent. Before we had 
gone far the orderly's horse fell. We left him to his fate, as there was no 
time for delay. The path now became more and more precipitous. In 
places it seemed all but impassable ; and, had there been room to turn my 
horse, I felt almost inclined to give it up and go back. Yet we pushed on 
and on till we reached the top. If it was a labour for my poor horse to 
scramble up, the difficulty and danger of descending the other side was 
much greater ; any slip would hurl him headlong down ; but by dint of 
care, what with sliding and slipping on his haunches, we, at last, reached 
the bottom without serious damage. It was six o'clock by the time the 
descent was accomplished, so that there was little more than an hour of 
daylight remaining, with more than thirty miles of sandy trackless plain, 
intersected by ravines, to traverse, and nothing but a western star and 
information from an occasional village to guide me. But, trusting to the 
speed and endurance of my gallant steed, well tried in many a hard day's 
run before, I dismissed the guide and set off at a hand gallop. 

Towards ten o'clock at night I discerned the thousand little twinkling 
lamps which light an Indian city, and, riding into the town, found the 
people all on the alert, and was soon recognised, my horse and myself 
being well known there. ' Larens sahib is come,' was repeated from 
mouth to mouth, with much surprise, as they knew I was at Rewari the 
day before. My sudden appearance scared them, and they slunk away 
to their houses. After parading the streets for a short time till they were 
quiet, I went to the tahsildar and heard from him of the commotion 
having increased throughout that day. I sent messengers to collect all 
vol. 1. G 


the police from the neighbourhood, and then repaired to the somewhat 
rough quarters of a hostelry (serai) just outside the walls. Here I luckily 

found an officer belonging to the political department, Captain R , 

who, being in ill health, was glad to recruit in rather more comfort than 
in tents ; for I had repaired and slightly furnished two or three rooms in 
the serai, in case of an emergency like the present. After seeing my 
horse well rubbed down and fed I retired to rest, In the morning, 
I stationed police at the gates, at the market-place, and at other central 
spots, that they might be ready in case the Hindus should have recourse 
to arms, and there they remained for three weeks. 

Thus the danger passed by, for the Mussulmans with their more 
active, warlike habits, backed by the European forces, were too strong 
for their opponents. So, after receiving a decided rebuff to a fresh 
petition from me, the Hindus tried a wholly new method. By a precon- 
certed and simultaneous movement they shut up all the shops, suspended 
trade and business of every description, and declared that, until the ob- 
noxious order was rescinded, they would neither buy nor sell, nor indeed 
hold any communication with the opposite party. 

This plan of passive resistance was by far the most effectual they 
could have adopted. It completely paralysed their enemies, and alarmed 
the magistrate more than he would have liked to own ; for they had 
complete control of the supplies, being the wholesale as well as retail 
dealers of the town. The next morning, when not only the Mussulmans, 
but the lower orders of Hindus came, as usual, to purchase the day's 
provisions, they found all the shops closed Living from hand to mouth 
as they do, they were in blank despair, and, adjourning to my house, they 
implored my leave to break open the granaries and help themselves, if 
I could not compel the traders to open their shops. I replied that the 
traders had done nothing contrary to law, and that I had no power to 
compel them in any way. I felt also that it would lead to general 
anarchy and plunder if I did not restrain them from attacking the 
granaries. Yet food they must have, and that at once. 

A plan occurred to me which would give me time to reason with the 
Hindus, and, possibly, bring them to a better state of mind. I collected 
many waggon-loads of grain from the country round, at my own risk, 
trusting that the Government would refund me when the peril was made 
known to them. This grain I stored, and gave out by letters of credit to 
retail dealers, whom I chose myself and placed in the streets. In this 
way all the slight wants of an Asiatic were supplied, and so careful was 
the organisation of the whole thing, that there was no ultimate loss to 
the Government. Meanwhile, I published proclamations warning the 
Hindus against blind allegiance to their priests, and telling them that 
any act of violence would meet with prompt retribution. This I was fre- 
quently able to do in isolated cases, as combination was now impossible 


for them. They first sent petitions to the Commissioner, and then to the 
seat of Government itself in the hills, complaining both of me, their 
magistrate, and the tahsildar. These were in due time returned to me 
for explanation. I did not think it necessary to answer their charges 
against myself, but successfully vindicated the tahsildar. 

For twenty-two days the Hindu traders held out, till I was much worn 
and harassed with the constant work of inspection, repression, and writing 
answers to complaints. At last, the poorer Hindus found that they were 
injuring themselves as well as the Mussulmans ; gradually a shop was 
opened here and there, and on the evening of the twenty-second day, a 
crowd of Hindus came to me in a humble frame of mind, owning that 
they had been led away by their priests, begging for pardon, solemnly 
promising never to repeat the offence, and offering to open their shops at 
once. I agreed to this, and thus a combination which had threatened to 
produce a general uproar was quietly and peaceably put down. I was 
able to satisfy the inquiries of Government as to my somewhat indepen- 
dent action in the matter, and so to establish the conduct of the tahsildar 
that he received special thanks for all he had done. He did not, how- 
ever, long survive to enjoy his recovered credit. A few months afterwards 
he died from a sudden attack of cholera. 

From the southern division of the Delhi district, which had been 
spared, as I have already shown, the full fury of the famine which 
had visited the North-West, John Lawrence was called off to a district 
in which it had done its worst. He was specially selected, in 
November 1838, for the post of 'settlement officer' at Etawa by 
Robert Mertins Bird, a man whose name is little known to English- 
men generally, and who, it is to be feared, is, at this distance of 
time, little remembered even among the 23,000,000 inhabitants of 
the North-West Provinces whom he did so much to save from misery 
and ruin. But his services are not to be measured by the little noise 
they made in the world, or by the little or no reward which they re- 
ceived. After serving, for twenty years of his life, as a judge, he 
suddenly joined the Revenue Department, a department which has 
proved to so many the study and despair of a lifetime. He was soon 
recognised as the chief living authority on the subject, and he 
managed, during the next thirteen years, to plan and to carry through 
a measure which was as complicated and difficult as it was vast and 
complete, the survey and settlement of the whole of the North-West 
Provinces. On returning to England, after thirty-three years' service, 
amidst the warm appreciation of all who knew what he had done, 
and how he had done it, he lived quite unnoticed, and passed to his 
grave without a single external mark of distinction. 

G 2 


Such is the lot — the lot borne uncomplainingly and even grate- 
fully — of many of our best Indian administrators. One here, and 
one there, rise to fame and honour, but the rest live a life of unceas- 
ing toil, wield a power which, within its sphere, is such as few 
European sovereigns wield, and with an absolute devotion to the 
good of their subjects such as few European sovereigns show. They 
have to be separated from their children during the most impressible 
period of their life, and the wife is often obliged to prefer the claims 
of the children to those of her husband. India can thus be no 
longer, in any true sense of the word, a home to them, and when at 
length they return to England, they do so, too often, broken in 
health, find themselves unnoticed and unknown, strangers even to 
their own children, and settle down from a position of semi-regal 
influence into, say, a semi-detached villa, visited by few save some 
half-dozen old civilians like themselves, who have borne with them 
the burden and heat of the Indian sun, and now drop in, from time 
to time, to talk over old days and interests which are all in all to 
them, but of which the outside world knows nothing at all. Verily 
they have their reward ; but it is a reward such as few outsiders can 
understand or appreciate. 

To have been selected by Robert Bird as a helper in the great 
work in which he was engaged was looked upon, ever afterwards, as 
a feather in the cap even of those who, from luck or otherwise, were 
destined soon to eclipse the fame of their old patron. John Law- 
rence, afterwards a first-rate revenue authority himself, was reluctant 
to leave his harder and therefore, as he deemed it, pleasanter work 
at Gurgaon, but he felt that a call by Robert Bird was a call to be 
obeyed. He learned in his school, fully sympathised with his noble 
motives, and, to a great extent, adopted his views. It is doubly in- 
cumbent, therefore, on the biographer of John Lawrence to pay a 
warm, if only a humble and a passing tribute, to a man to whom he 
owed so much and of whom his countrymen know so little. 

Sir John Kaye tells a story of a Frenchman, Victor Jacquemont, 
who, after the manner of the more frivolous part of his nation, asked 
Holt Mackenzie, one of the highest revenue authorities in India, to 
explain to him in a five minutes' conversation the various systems of 
land revenue obtaining in different parts of the country ! The ex- 
perienced civilian replied that he had been, for twenty years, endea- 
vouring to understand the subject, and had not mastered it yet. A 
warning taken to heart by Sir John Kaye may well serve to order any 


ordinary Englishman clean off the ground on which, with heedless 
steps, he may have been preparing to venture. But my object is a 
simpler and humbler one. It is not to explain the inexplicable, or 
express the inexpressible, but, merely, to show what was the general 
nature of the evils from which Bird and his associates were endea- 
vouring to save the country, and to indicate in very general terms 
the character of that ' settlement ' of the North- West Provinces by 
Bird, which, afterwards, had so material an influence on the settlement 
of the Punjab by the Lawrences. 

When, in the earlier part of the nineteenth century the conquests 
of Sir Arthur Wellesley and Lord Lake had laid so large a part of 
Northern India at our feet, the first question that pressed for decision, 
was the method in which the cost of its administration could best be 
met. The theory in all Eastern states is that a certain proportion — 
very variable in amount — of the produce of the land belongs of right 
to the Government ; and, in India, the theory is supplemented by the 
clear understanding that if the owner pays that proportion to the 
Government he cannot be disturbed in possession. But with whom 
was the agreement for the payment of the state dues to be made ? 
In other words, who were the rightful owners? In Bengal, at all 
events, we had set ourselves an example for all future time of how 
not to do it. For, under the auspices of Lord Cornwallis, a ' perma- 
nent settlement ' of the land revenue had been made, very possibly 
with the best motives, but with the worst results — at the cost that is of 
'permanent ' injury alike to the Government and to the best portion 
of its subjects. It had been made without sufficient inquiry as to who 
the true proprietors were, or what the future capabilities of the soil 
might be. It seemed more natural, and was certainly more easy, 
for Government to make an agreement with the one big man who 
made himself out to be the richest and most influential inhabitant, 
than with a large number of smaller men ; with one zemindar, as he 
was called in Bengal, rather than with a hundred ryots or their 
representatives. And, as the result of the ' permanent settlement,' 
these zemindars woke up one morning and found themselves trans- 
formed by us into landowners — superseding, that is, the true 
hereditary proprietors, and reducing them to the rank of tenants-at- 
will, or little better, and often at exorbitant rents. These very 
zemindars, however, were, owing to the introduction of the 'law of 
sale,' liable, in their turn, to be evicted by other capitalists or specu- 
lators less scrupulous even than themselves. 


These were mistakes, which it might have been supposed that, 
taught by experience, we could easily avoid, in the revenue arrange- 
ments for the North-West. We only succeeded, however, in very 
partially avoiding them. We had become conscious of our ignorance 
of the conditions under which alone a permanent settlement might 
advantageously be thought of, and so had taken the initial step 
towards knowledge. Settlements were accordingly now made, not in 
perpetuity, but only for a short term of years, and not till after some 
inquiry had been made as to who the true owners were. But, un- 
fortunately, the men we pitched upon as the proper landowners 
turned out again, in many cases, to be nothing of the kind. The 
'sale law,' as though it had not done injustice enough in Bengal, was 
transported into the North-West, and the assessments made were ex- 
tortionately high, often amounting to a half of the gross produce. In 
vain did the proprietors rush to the local courts for protection. 
Protection the judges of the local courts could not give, bound down 
as they were by strict legal rules and ignorant of the history and pe- 
culiarities of the people. What scanty means of subsistence remained 
to the true proprietor, the meshes of the law carried off. Confusion 
became worse confounded. Estates were often put up for sale in 
the ignorance of the owner, and bought at merely nominal prices 
by intriguing native officers. And then, when the mischief had been 
half done, we tried to undo it. Rhadamanthus-like, though with any- 
thing but rhadamanthine motives, we punished first, and discovered 
what the offence was, or was not, afterwards. 

In 1822, Holt Mackenzie introduced what has been justly called 
the ' Magna Charta of the village communities in India,' all the more 
justly, perhaps, that, like Magna Charta, its provisions were not at 
once carried out into practice, and that, like Magna Charta also, it 
needed to be renewed and developed in later times. From various 
causes, which need not be mentioned here, the revision of the settle- 
ment, as arranged by him, made little progress for some ten years, 
but at last, in 1833, under the Governor-Generalship of Lord William 
Bentinck, the man for the work was found in Robert Bird. He 
threw inexhaustible energy and fire into a task for which he had been 
long prepared, alike by an extensive knowledge of the inhabitants of 
the North-West Provinces, and by a special, though quite unofficial, 
study of the subject. He avoided most of the mistakes which had 
crippled the execution of his predecessor's project, and suggested a 
simple method for determining, cheaply and at once, the interminable 


disputes as to ownership and boundaries by the summoning of a 
village jury on the spot, under the supervision of the Commissioners. 
Allowed to choose his own men, he selected the very best for the 
purpose that could be found in the whole of India, whether from the 
civil service or the army. Witness it the names of Thomason, Reade, 
and Mansel, of Edmonstone and of James Abbott, of Henry and of 
John Lawrence. In a few years, every village over an area of 72,000 
square miles was measured, every field mapped, the nature of the soil 
recorded, and the assessment fixed at a moderate rate for a period of 
some twenty years. 1 Such was the great work in which John Law- 
rence was now called to bear a part. 

It is not to be supposed that a work so gigantic could be carried 
through without many mistakes and without involving, in special cases, 
considerable injustice. A change of government always implies in- 
justice. In Eastern countries it has too often implied a total overthrow 
of all existing rights. And, apart from this, Eastern notions are in 
many ways so essentially different from Western, that what is the 
highest right in our eyes may well seem the highest wrong in theirs. 
Now the governing principle of the new settlement was, that the true 
proprietors were the village cultivators, and that any middle-men who 
came between them and the Government, as contractors for the 
revenue, were interlopers, drones who consumed the honey in a hive 
which was not too well stocked with it. No one will deny that there 
was much truth in this ; few, on the other hand, will now be found 
to say — not even the most thorough-going of the settlement officers of 
that time who still survive— that it was the whole truth. The here- 
ditary revenue contractors — talukdars as they were called in the North- 
West, zemindars as they were called in Bengal — were not necessarily 
proprietors as well. They might, or might not, be owners, in part or 
the whole, of the district for which they contracted. But, though the 
two things were quite independent of each other, it is important to note 
here that each involved in the Eastern mind notions of property. 

Property in land is, all the world over, the most cherished and 
the most sacred kind of property, but it is not the only kind. To 
disturb an arrangement affecting property which has gone on for 
many years, perhaps for generations, is a very strong step, as all 
history — the history of the Agrarian Laws and the reforms of the 

1 See the whole subject discussed in Raike's North-West Provinces of India, 
chap, ii., and Kaye's Sepoy War, vol. i. chap. iv. 


Gracchi at Rome above all — bears witness. At Rome the ' public 
land ' was undoubtedly in law and in fact the property of the state, 
which might, at any rate, resume, for purposes of its own, what, for pur- 
poses of its own, it had granted out. The word used in Roman law 
for the enjoyment of the ' public land ' by a private individual (pos- 
sessio) was a word which carefully excluded the notion of ownership 
and conveyed only that of occupation. Still, the state had so long 
forborne to exercise its right of resumption that the idea of property 
had stealthily crept in. These lands had passed by will from one 
generation to another; they had been bought and sold; they had been 
fenced and drained ; farm-buildings had been erected upon them ; 
their enjoyment was consecrated by most of the ties and obligations 
which bind the proprietor to his landed property. To disturb, as the 
Gracchi proposed to do, an arrangement which appeared so stable 
and so immemorial was, disguise it as we may, a revolution. Righteous 
and imperatively necessary it might be, but it was a revolution still. 

In the North- West Provinces it was certainly high time to make 
a settlement of some kind, for anything would be better than the 
uncertainty and the want of method which had prevailed for upwards 
of a quarter of a century. Now, in every elaborate scheme there 
must be some one or more governing principles, and, on the whole, 
the governing principle selected by Robert Bird was as near the 
truth as any general principle could be, and, whatever its short- 
comings, was more likely to secure the greatest happiness of the 
greatest number than any other. But it is said l to have been 
carried out by some of the officers concerned too sweepingly and 
with too little consideration. They looked upon every talukdar as 
if he had necessarily gained his position by force or fraud. In their 
opinion, therefore, he was lucky enough if he got any money com- 
pensation for his loss of territorial influence ; he deserved rather to 
be made to disgorge what he and his family had been wrongfully 
devouring during a long course of years. 

It can be easily understood how good men might take opposite 
views on such a subject as this, and, in the settlement of the North- 
west, both sides had able representatives, though the reforming party 
were in the majority. On the side of the talukdars was Robertson, 
the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West, Robert C. Hamilton, 

1 E.g. by Kaye, vol. i. p. 160. Sir John Lawrence, in many letters which 
I find among his papers, is disposed to deny the accuracy of this assertion. 


Commissioner of Agra, and, in a subordinate capacity, Henry Law- 
rence, a host in himself, who had lately obtained an appointment 
in the survey, on the recommendation of his brother George. On 
the side of the village communities was the still higher authority of 
the Revenue Board, with Robert Bird at its head, Thomason the 
future Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West, and most of the rank 
and file of the settlement officers, reinforced now by another 
Lawrence, who was also a host in himself — John Lawrence. And, 
as in the case of the more famous Board which administered the 
Punjab later on, it may be hoped that where both sides were so ably 
represented something like an equilibrium was established, and that 
the injustice which would have been done by either party, if it had 
had its own way entirely, was reduced to a minimum by the keen 
criticism which each proposition received from those who opposed it. 

The district of Etawa, which fell to John Lawrence's charge, lay 
on the left bank of the Jumna and adjoined Agra and Mynpoorie. 
It was in no way a delectable place, as the following description will 
show. c In no part of India,' says a well-known Anglo-Indian Book 
of Reference, ' do hot winds blow with greater fury. They com- 
mence in March and rage throughout the whole of April and of May. 
The wind usually rises about eight a.m. and subsides at sunset ; 
though it sometimes blows at night as well. Every article of 
furniture is burning to the touch ; the hardest wood, if not well 
covered with damp blankets, will split with a report like that of a 
pistol ; and linen taken from a press is as if just removed from the 
kitchen fire. But, terrible as are the days, the nights are infinitely 
worse ; each apartment becomes heated to excess, and can only be 
compared to an oven. The hot winds are succeeded by the mon- 
soon, or periodical rains, the transition being marked by a furious 
tornado. At midday, darkness as of night sets in, caused by the 
dense clouds of dust ; and so loud is the roar of the storm, that 
incessant peals of thunder are heard only at rare intervals, whilst the 
flashes of forked lightning seldom pierce the gloom. At last, the 
rain descends in torrents, floods the country, and refreshes, for a 
while, the animal and vegetable world.' 

Etawa had suffered dreadfully from the drought, and was still 
feeling its effects when,, in November 1838, John Lawrence arrived 
as its ' settlement officer.' The land revenue had, of course, com- 
pletely broken down, and the land tenures were in great disorder. 
Here John Lawrence saw for the first time, with his own eyes, the 


horrors of an Indian famine ; here, by daily contact with the starving 
people, he learned to sympathise with their sufferings in their full 
intensity ; and here, once more, he gathered together and treasured 
up for future use those maxims which he was afterwards to apply in 
so careful and yet so magnificent a manner, in his administration of 
the Punjab— the duty of a rigid economy in all the departments of 
government which admit of it, in order that the expenditure may be 
all the more lavish on the best and the only means of avoiding such 
terrible calamities for the future — the construction of tanks and 
canals, of roads and bridges. 

The population of India, it must always be remembered, are 
almost entirely agricultural ; their wealth consists of their labour and 
their flocks alone, and in a year of famine the value of these falls at 
once to zero. From a commercial people a famine cuts off only one 
out of many sources of subsistence ; from an agricultural it cuts off 
all at once. At such times the prices of food for cattle range even 
higher than those of food for man. In this particular year, while 
corn rose to about ten, hay and other food for cattle rose to not less 
than sixteen times their usual value. A good cow could be bought 
for a rupee. Artificial irrigation, in the extent to which it has now 
been carried in India, ensures, even in the worst seasons, a consider- 
able supply of grain ; whereas the grass lands, which receive no help 
either from earth or heaven, are utterly scorched up. Indeed, it is 
not the least tragical part of the prolonged tragedy of an Indian 
famine, that there are often considerable stores of food within reach 
of the starving people which they have no means of procuring. They 
see, but they may not taste thereof. Like Tantalus, they starve in 
the midst of plenty. 

' It is owing to the agricultural character of the population and 
the difficult means of communication,' says John Lawrence, as he 
looked back in 1845 from his post of Magistrate and Collector of 
Delhi on what he had witnessed at Gurgaon and Etawa seven years 
before, ' that India suffers so dreadfully from famine, and not, as has 
been so unreasonably supposed, from the exactions of the English 
Government. The demands of Government, if not particularly mode- 
rate in themselves, seem moderate when compared with those of the 
native governments, and with the little that, under those governments, 
the people get in return. Give India good roads and canals, increase 
in every way the facilities of communication, and encourage the em- 
ployment of capital on its resources, and then more will be done to 


obviate the recurrence of famines than in any other way that can be 
devised.' So much has been done since 1845 in the direction here 
] pointed out that John Lawrence's words read now like truisms. But 
they were not truisms then. 

Thousands of natives in these two disastrous years (1838-39) left 
their homes in the North-West Provinces and wandered from place 
to place in the vain hope of getting food. Many lay down and died 
by the roadside, and it was no uncommon thing for John Lawrence, 
as he went for his morning ride, to see the bodies of those who had 
perished in the preceding night half-eaten by wolves or jackals which, 
lured by the scent of human carrion, went prowling about the country 
in packs, and held a ghastly revelry over the gaunt victims of the 
famine. It was a remark often made in his hearing, that the taste 
for human flesh acquired by these usually skulking and cowardly 
animals gave them, for years to come, courage to invade the haunts 
of men, and invested them, for the nonce, with the awe-inspiring 
attributes of man-eating or child-eating tigers. 

Here is one incident of this time of trouble. It is commonplace 
enough in some of its details, and such as might be matched by the 
experience of any English officer whose melancholy fate it has been 
to watch over a famine-stricken district and to witness the tide of 
human misery which he is powerless to stop, and can only hope, to 
some very slight extent, to alleviate. It gives, however, such an in- 
sight into the daily life and kindly feelings of John Lawrence at this 
period, and brings before us so vividly so many characteristics of 
the people of India, that it seems to me to be well worth preserving. 
I have again condensed the story as much as possible, but, wherever 
it was practicable, have kept near to John Lawrence's own words. 

The people of India are essentially a people given to pilgrimages. 
Jumnotri and Gangotri, situated in the Himalayas, at the sources 
respectively of the Jumna and the Ganges ; Allahabad, where they 
unite ; Benares, further down the sacred stream ; Juggernauth in 
Cuttack, on the shores of the Bay of Bengal ; — all these sacred spots 
attract to themselves thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of 
devout pilgrims year by year ; and, as in other parts of the world, so 
in India, these religious resorts become also marts of commerce. 
The Hindu pilgrim often returns from Benares or Allahabad just as 
the Haji of Central Asia or Africa often returns from Mecca — rich, 
not in the odour of sanctity alone. The sacred shrine presents, at 
certain seasons of the year, the appearance of a huge fair. Booths 


•are erected on an extensive scale, and merchandise from all the 
neighbouring countries is exposed for sale. Hurdwar, on the banks 
of the Ganges, not very far from the spot where it bursts out from 
the hills into the vast plain, is at once a great resort of pilgrims and 
the best horse-mart in Upper India. Here John Lawrence, with his 
passionate love of the animal, doubtless made not a few purchases of 
his favourite Arab or Kabuli horses. 

But, besides these great resorts of pilgrims known to all the world, 
there are many other shrines of much less but still of considerable 
local celebrity. Such a one there happened to be not half-a-mile 
from John Lawrence's house ; and as the great road from the South- 
West, which led by the shrine, passed close under his windows, he 
had no difficulty in observing the manners and customs of the 
pilgrims. And a very rich study of Indian nature — nay, of human 
nature at large — did they give him. The shrine was that of ' Situla,' 
or Small-pox — that is to say, of the goddess who presides over and 
controls the disease whose ravages are more fatal than those of any 
other in India. It has been calculated that in Delhi, the most popu- 
lous city in North-Westem India, two-thirds of all the children under 
two years of age who die of disease die of small-pox. What wonder, 
then, that so terrible a goddess should be resorted to by parents from 
far and near who were anxious to save their children from so loath- 
some a death ? 

Intimately acquainted though John Lawrence was with the 
natives, and living, as he had done for some time, within twenty 
miles of the place, he was wholly ignorant even of the existence of 
this shrine till he came to live close beside it. ' So true is it,' he 
remarks, ' that what is intensely interesting to the people themselves 
is often utterly unknown to the Europeans who live among them. 5 
As each mother presented her child she offered also a male lamb, 
which she entreated the goddess to accept as a substitute for the 
more precious victim. And, at the same time, to propitiate the 
attendant priests, and, through them, the deity, she presented such 
other offerings, in money or in kind, as she was able to afford. 
These offerings were, however, devoted to the adornment neither of 
the shrine nor of the goddess. Far from it. There she stood in the 
middle of her temple, the same misshapen log of wood on which, in 
all its hideous deformity, the Brahmins had, from time immemorial, 
been accustomed to pour oil and paint ; and before her the people 
bowed and prayed in their thousands. Nothing could shake their 


implicit faith in the power of Situla. If a child who had been pre- 
sented by its parents subsequently took the small-pox and recovered, 
or if it escaped the disease altogether, here was an incontestable 
proof of her goddess-ship : she had heard their prayer and had saved 
them from their distress. If, on the contrary, the child sank under 
the malady, it would only be still more incumbent on the parents to 
revisit the shrine with their next infant and propitiate the goddess 
with even larger offerings. A picture pathetic enough this ! — the 
earnest faith, the willing offering, the answer given or denied, and, 
in either case, the deepened faith, the redoubled fervour, the more 
abundant offerings. Pathetic enough ; but it is not confined to India, 
it is wide spread as human nature. 

On great occasions, the concourse of people was so large that it 
was found necessary to increase the police force, to patrol the country, 
and to make arrangements for the protection of pilgrims, as well 
against the plunderers as against themselves. In order to secure 
the proper performance of these duties, John Lawrence often rode 
down to the shrine in person, and watched everything that went on 
there, and we can fancy the grim humour with which, amongst these 
crowded pilgrims, he played something of the part of the Turkish 
soldiers at the Holy Sepulchre, when, at the annual descent of the 
sacred fire, they endeavour, by the free use of their whips, to keep 
the peace between half-a-dozen sects of Christians. 

Seated on his horse, he watched the women, as, one by one, they 
anxiously approached the goddess, with a child in one arm, and the 
scape-goat, as it might be called, in the other. Never accustomed 
to conceal his thoughts, he would sometimes indulge in a quiet and 
kindly banter. ' How is your demon to-day ? Is she propitious ? 
How many children has she murdered this week?' — these were 
questions he often put, not to the devout worshippers, but to the fat 
and sleek and burly Brahmins who were in attendance. These old 
fellows never showed any annoyance, for they were much too prosperous 
in their trade to feel angry at his jokes. But had he himself, at any 
time, fallen a victim to the malady, he would, doubtless, have been 
held up by them as an awful example of the Sahib who had scoffed 
at the goddess and had felt her power. 

The loss of life and property in these pilgrimages was very great. 
The people generally travelled on foot, not so much from poverty 
as because the pains and fatigues and dangers of such a mode of 
travelling were considered to be meritorious and likely to propitiate 


the deity. The rate of travelling was necessarily slow. There 
were, then, in India no public conveyances of any kind, no inns, 
hardly even any decent roads. There were, in fact, no conveniences 
for travelling beyond, here and there, the bare walls of some sefai, 
set up, in times long gone by, by some Mussulman ruler, with its 
open courtyard, guarded by a gate which was always shut and barred 
at night, and its collection of cells, each furnished with a ' charpoi,' 
or frame of a bedstead, some six feet long and two broad, without 
mattress, pillow, or any other furniture. This accommodation, such 
as it was, could generally be procured for the moderate sum of two 
pyce. Every one carried with him his own mat, and his own brass 
vessels for drinking and washing ; and it may well be understood, 
how, under such circumstances, a journey of a few hundred miles 
might be the business of several months. 

Nor were these discomforts the worst evils that beset the poor 
pilgrim. Every one used to travel armed, prepared to resist attacks 
on life and property, though it seldom happened, when the time 
came, that they had the pluck to do so. Sometimes a whole party 
of petty merchants, or some other peaceful caste, would allow them- 
selves to be stopped and plundered by a few resolute men without 
making even a show of resistance. Their credulity and blind con- 
fidence passed belief. They allowed almost any one to join their 
party, if he professed to belong to their caste ; and thus they fell 
an easy prey to thugs, dacoits, and vagabonds of every description. 
With a little address and civility these rascals contrived to insinuate 
themselves into the confidence of the travellers, learned all their secrets, 
the place whither they were going, and the wealth of each member of 
the party, and then they selected their victims with discretion. 

The approaches to all the more famous places of pilgrimage used 
to be infested by characters of this description, and hundreds of 
pilgrims were robbed or murdered, and often left no sign behind 
them. Poor travellers, unable to bear the expense of applying to 
the police, found it better to put up with their losses and struggle on 
towards the goal which they had in view, subsisting by the help of 
their fellow-pilgrims, or begging at the villages near the high roads. 
' All classes,' remarks John Lawrence, ' are charitable, and particu- 
larly the poorer ones. Charity is universally inculcated by both the 
Mussulman and the Hindu religions, and the kindly and amiable 
feelings of the people cheerfully respond to the beggar's petition.' 

One touching case of the kind John Lawrence met with in his 


wanderings over his district in the person of a pilgrim who was on 
his way to pay his respects to the goddess Situla. He had sent 
forward his tents to a fine copse of ber trees, where there was a 
splendid tank which, even in that year of drought, was filled with 
water. The Hindus were bathing there, and John Lawrence, in 
rambling through the adjoining plantation, came upon a lump which 
seemed to be a dead body, but which, on looking at it more closely, 
shoewd some signs of life. It was the body of an old man of 
venerable appearance, full seventy years of age, in a most emaciated 
state, covered with filth and dirt, and with scarcely a rag to cover 
him. He had neither bag nor wallet nor property of any description, 
and he seemed to be in the last stage of disease. John Lawrence 
endeavoured in vain to rouse his attention : his mind was wandering, 
he could not speak distinctly, and his glazed eye indicated the near 
approach of death, unless immediate steps were taken to stave it off. 
John hurried off to his tent for assistance ; but his servants hesitated 
to touch a body — though they saw by his sacred thread that it was 
that of a Brahmin — so begrimed with filth and in so hopeless a con- 
dition. At last he prevailed on them to help him in conveying the 
sufferer to his tent, and there he tended him with his own hands, 
placed him on a bed, and gave him food. In the course of the day 
the pilgrim so far rallied as to be able to tell his story, and a very 
touching one it was. 

It appeared that he had left his home in the south of India, some 
thirteen months before, with his wife and child, to visit the shrine of 
the dread goddess, of whose very existence, as I have said, John 
Lawrence had remained in ignorance, till he found himself her next 

On the way they all fell ill, and the boy, the prime object of the toil- 
some pilgrimage, died before he had obtained the protection of the goddess. 
The mother struggled on for a little while, and then she too died. The 
father, left quite alone in the north of India, where he knew no one and 
no one knew him, determined to press on to Lahore, which lay far beyond 
what was then the British frontier — for there a brother of his had settled 
some twenty years previously. He had already travelled some 900 miles 
on foot in the manner I have described, and Lahore was still several 
hundred miles distant. Wearied and travel-worn he continued his 
journey, and had actually arrived within two stages of that city when he 
was attacked by robbers, plundered of his little remaining property, and 
wounded. Here his courage seemed to have forsaken him ; he could 
struggle on no further ; he did not attempt to accomplish the object for 


which he had toiled so far, but directly he was able to move, turned his 
face homewards without seeing his brother. Being a pilgrim and, still 
more, a Brahmin, he fared pretty well at first ; for he was helped by the 
hospitality and alms of the villagers on the way. At last he recrossed 
the Sutlej, and was, once again, in the British provinces. Here he found 
the famine raging, and now his troubles thickened. He had managed to 
reach the place where I found him, about one-third of his way home, 
when he was attacked with dysentery. He told me he had remained 
under the ber tree for fifteen days, too weak to crawl any further, and 
that none of the people would take him into their houses ; but that now 
and then some women passing to and fro from the village would bring 
him a little food, and fill his ' lotah ' with water. During one of his fits 
of insensibility his few remaining things had been carried off, and, for the 
last two days, he had eaten nothing, and, feeling himself dying, had re- 
signed himself to his fate, when it pleased ' Narayan ' to send me there. 
' Now,' added the old man, 'that I have eaten, I feel strong. I shall live 
to return home and be able to accomplish the marriage of my two 
daughters : arid this good deed of yours, Sahib, may yet be the cause of 
my house flourishing. I may yet have a grandson to perform the last 
rites for me.' 

The old man at length seemed exhausted ; he laid his head down and 
fell asleep. In half-an-hour my servant came in and said, 'The old 
Brahmin is dead.' I went and looked at his body : he appeared to have 
died in his sleep, probably from mere exhaustion, at the very moment 
when he had gone to sleep with the happy consciousness that his troubles 
were at an end. 

John Lawrence's work at Etawa was' as I have said, of a much 
less absorbing kind than any which he had hitherto undertaken, and 
he disliked it proportionately. Before he could begin his proper 
duties it was necessary that the whole country should be surveyed in 
a scientific manner, and the boundaries of all the villages determined. 
While this was being done by native officers, John Lawrence 
managed to find some employment for himself in giving temporary 
relief, in superintending the detailed field measurements on which 
the revised settlements were to be founded, and in hearing all disputes 
connected with proprietary and tenant-rights or with village bound- 
aries. Work of this kind was not new to him, for, in the transitional 
state in which the Delhi district then was, he had managed to com- 
bine, both at Paniput and Gurgaon, much of the work of a settlement 
officer with that of a collector. I was fortunate enough in the case of 
Paniput to be able to quote the testimony of the one man who could 
speak from direct personal experience of John Lawrence's work there. 


So now, in the case of Etawa, I am able to give a few particulars of 
his work and doings which have been communicated to me by the 
only Englishman who had any opportunity of observing them. 

I am afraid (writes Mr. J. Cumine of Rattray, Aberdeenshire) that I 
am the only person now living who can tell you anything of Lawrence 
during the year 1838-39, in which he and I lived in the closest intimacy 
at Etawa, he being the settlement officer, while I was the magistrate and 
collector. It was then a newly formed district, and houses being very 
scarce, the one occupied by me was the only one available for Lawrence 
to live in. We, of course, shared it together. He did not like the ap- 
pointment, as he had been far more actively employed before in various 
parts of the Delhi territory ; but being specially selected by Robert Bird, 
who had a very high opinion of him, he accepted it. The initial business 
of a settlement imposes little work upon the officer in charge, and Lawrence 
fretted under the want of it. 

I may here remark that, in a letter which has come into my hands> 
written by Lawrence to this same friend from Lahore in 1846, after 
describing the various places in which he had taken temporary work 
since his return to India from furlough, he thus refers to his life at 
Etawa : ' I took particular care to avoid that hole Etawa, where you 
and I were so nearly buried seven years ago.' A commonplace ex- 
pression enough, but I quote it for two reasons : first, because, in a 
correspondence of many thousand letters which I have read carefully, 
this is the one occasion on which John Lawrence speaks of his post 
of duty by a name which is the very first to rise to the lips of too 
many public officers when they happen to be posted to a place which 
does not quite take their fancy ; and, secondly, because the feelings 
of dislike with which he undoubtedly regarded Etawa, and which 
betrayed him, in this one instance, into the use of the word in question, 
were aroused, not because it brought him too much discomfort, or 
difficulty, or work, but because it brought him too little. 

' He joined (Mr. Cumine went on to say) most heartily and happily in 
all the few recreations which, in the intervals of work, were available in 
such a dull place, and which, now, seem somewhat boyish. In the morn- 
ing there was pigeon-shooting on the shady side of the house' — an 
amusement in which it may safely be said he would not have joined had 
it involved any of its more odious and more modern associations of 
cruelty and gambling, and worse — 'in the afternoon there would be 
games of quoits, or swimming in a large bath accompanied by some 
rough horse-play. Lawrence was an excellent shot, but the game was of 

VOL. I. H 


a much tamer kind than the nobler animals in the pursuit of which he 
afterwards so much distinguished himself in the Jullundur Doab. It con- 
sisted only of quails, hares, and grey and black partridges. He was as 
pleasant a companion and friend as I ever met with. We were nearly of 
the same age, and, as we were both keenly interested in everything re- 
lating to our work, we were never separated except when we were at our 
respective offices. Our very charpoys at night were under the same 
punkah. I observed the clear decided way in which he formed a judg- 
ment upon all subjects, and the energy with which he set about his work. 
His resemblance to Cromwell in these and other respects struck me so 
much that I called him Oliver, thus jocularly expressing my sense of his 
vigour and determination.' 

The many points of resemblance between John Lawrence and one 
of the greatest and most downright and God-fearing of Englishmen 
did not strike this early friend alone. They have struck portrait- 
painters and sculptors and friends without number, and, now that he 
has been taken from us full of years and honours, they have been 
pointed out in scores of newspaper articles and periodicals and 
sermons ; but it is not without interest to note how early in life the 
parallel first suggested itself, and to name the friend whom, as it 
seems, it was the first to strike. 

Like Cromwell, John Lawrence was rough and downright in all 
he said and did. Like Cromwell, he cared naught for appearances, 
spoke his mind freely, swept all cobwebs out of his path, worked like 
a horse himself, and insisted on hard work in others. The natives, 
if they did not love him, regarded him with veneration and with 
trust, at all events, as somebody to be obeyed. They respect a man 
who will be down upon them in a moment for anything that is 
wrong, provided only that he is scrupulously just, and this John 
Lawrence always was. His voice was loud, his presence command- 
ing ; his grey eye, deep-set and kindly as it was, glared terribly when 
it was aroused by anything mean or cowardly or wrong. His temper 
— the Lawrences were all naturally quick-tempered — was generally 
well under control ; but when he felt, like Jonah, ' that he did well 
to be angry,' there was no mistake at all about it. ' What do you 
think of John Lawrence up at Etawa ? ' asked his old schoolfellow, 
Robert Montgomery — who was then magistrate at Cawnpore and 
had not seen him much since he came to India— of one of the 
native settlement officers whom John had sent thither ; ' what do 
you think of John Lawrence ? Does he work well and keep you at 


it ?' ' Doesn't he !' replied the awe-stricken native ; ' when he is in 
anger his voice is like a tiger's roar, and the pens tremble in the 
hands of the writers all round the room.' ] 

During his year's residence at Etawa, Lawrence paid frequent 
visits to the house of his immediate superior — Robert North Collie 
Hamilton, the commissioner of Agra. Hamilton belonged to the 
school in revenue matters which held doctrines the opposite to those 
which were just then in vogue. He thought that the talukdars and 
chieftains, especially the Raja of Mynpoorie and Etawa itself, were 
being hardly dealt with, for they were to lose, henceforward, all power 
in their talukdaries, and to be restricted to a percentage or fixed sum 
in cash (malikana). He pointed out that such a policy tended to 
deprive the Government of the support of those natives who could 
have done most to help them in their measures for education, for 
police, and for public works, and that the power of these natural 
rulers would slip into the hands of far less scrupulous persons — the 
village bankers and money-lenders. But these differences of opinion 
in no way affected the friendship of the two men ; and Hamilton, as 
we shall hereafter see, went out of his way to give John Lawrence an 
excellent start again after his return from furlough — a service which 
John Lawrence ever afterwards remembered and gratefully acknow- 

One of the most important duties which fell to his lot as settle- 
ment officer at Etawa was the demarcation of the village boundaries 
when there was a dispute respecting them which the native agents 
were unable to decide. The work was by no means new to him ; 
for, from his early days at Paniput, he had set himself to study the 
native society of India in all its aspects, and, in particular, that most 
characteristic and essential element of all — the village community. 
It was to conversations with Lord Lawrence upon this subject that, 
some forty years later, Sir Henry Maine, in his preface to his well- 
known work on 'Village Communities in the East and West,' tells us 
that he owed much of the knowledge of the phenomena of Indinn 
society which enabled him to write it ; and, as he truly observes, it 
was the patient study of the ideas and usages of the natives of India 
during his early career which so eminently fitted Lord Lawrence for 
the supreme rule of the country. 

1 Jub ghoose men t'he, goya sherbubber kee awauz ! tub-to mootussuddeeou 
lcee haut'h men kullumon t'hurt'hurate t'he ! 

H 2 


The story of one case of a disputed boundary decided by John 
Lawrence while he was at Etawa is, in my judgment, well worth pre- 
serving, both for the sake of the light that it throws upon a state of 
things which, under our rule, seems likely soon to be a thing of the 
past, and because it brings into conspicuous relief the patience, the 
sagacity, and the resolution of the chief actor in it. 

The Disputed Boundary. 

Among the many fruitful sources of crime in India, few are more bane- 
ful in their results than the disputes which, until a recent period, commonly 
prevailed throughout the country regarding village boundaries. Feuds 
originating in such disputes were handed down from father to son, em- 
bittered by constant acts of mutual violence. The most desperate affrays 
occurred, which were seldom quelled before numbers on either side were 
killed and wounded ; and even when temporarily adjusted, unless settled 
by general consent, they too often broke out again with increased animosity. 
In quarters where strong feeling for their clan prevailed, the feud would 
spread throughout all the villages in the vicinity, whose inhabitants then 
ranged themselves on eicher side as their prejudices, arising from caste or 
religion, dictated. 

Among all castes their love for the soil, and veneration for everything 
connected with the village, is remarkable. These local attachments 
seem, indeed, to me to supply the place of love of country. It may be 
said that a native of India does not feel that he has a country. He cares 
naught for what is passing in the world or who is his ruler. His love, his 
hatred, his fears, his hopes, are confined to the village circle. He knows 
little and cares less for what goes on beyond it. So many different 
dynasties have governed his country ; it has so often been transferred 
from one ruler to another, that, so long as no one interferes with village 
matters, he is indifferent. On the other hand, let any attack be made 
upon the village, let a claim be preferred to a single acre of the most 
barren and unproductive of its lands, and eveiy one is up in arms, ready 
to risk his life or spend his fortune in preserving those possessions invio- 

The following remarks, though more or less applicable to different 
parts of British India, more particularly refer to the North-West Pro- 
vinces, and especially to that portion which lies along the right bank of 
the river Jumna. Here the people are independent and warlike. The 
village institutions, having never been meddled with, are more complete 
than in most parts of our possessions. The soil is fertile, having facili- 
ties for irrigation both from the river and from canals. It is subdivided 
among a great number of proprietors, who cultivate their lands with their 
own hands. The majority in every village are either actually related, or 


are, at any rate, of the same caste. Situated in the vicinity of the Sikh 
and Rajpoot states, with whose people they are, even now, at constant 
feud, and previous to our rule were at open warfare, circumstances 
have fostered the bonds of clan and kindred to a very remarkable 

In this country, then, there are extensive tracts of land reserved for 
grazing. In them large herds of cattle are kept by all classes. The 
cultivated lands lie round or near the village and are divided among and 
owned by individuals. That reserved for pasturage is more usually held 
in common and, extending to the village boundaries, lies unenclosed, and 
it is here that affrays most frequently occur. 

The village cowherds collect the cattle every morning after milking- 
time and lead them out to graze, bringing them back at night to their 
respective owners. In that pastoral country, villagers often own many 
thousand head of cattle. Where the cattle are numerous and the area 
enclosed, the cowherds are tempted to encroach on the possessions of 
neighbouring villages, particularly when the inhabitants are less numerous 
and powerful than their own. The boundaries were often ill-defined, and 
affrays were consequently very frequent. Perhaps one party, after re- 
peatedly warning off the intruders, attempt to seize their cattle. In- 
stantly the shrill cry of the cowherds convey the alarm, and the whole 
community pour forth like bees from a hive. Men, women, and even 
children, rush to the rescue, armed with swords, spears, bludgeons — in 
short, with the first weapon that comes to hand. Their opponents are 
supported by their own friends, and a desperate conflict ensues. The 
value of the land in question is of little consequence. It may be and 
often is, valueless. This is not the question. It is a point of honour, and 
every man is ready to lay down his life rather than give up a single foot 
of the hereditary soil. 

No cases are more intricate or difficult to decide than these. The 
magistrate is completely bewildered ; the witnesses on either side are 
ready to swear anything which may be required for their own parties. 
I have known more than one instance where, what with those who have 
been killed or wounded, those who have run away to escape justice, as being 
active parties in the fight, and those who have been sentenced to imprison- 
ment, a village community has been completely broken up for the sake of 
a piece of land worth perhaps a few shillings. 

The Government, fully aware, for many years, how much these evils 
affected the peace and prosperity of the country, were most anxious to 
have the village boundaries carefully defined. A scientific survey has 
been in progress for many years in the upper provinces, and is now (1840) 
nearly concluded. The boundaries were all determined and marked off 
previous to the survey, and thus nearly a complete stop was put to all 
affrays arising from this cause. It is true that, now and then, these old 


disputes break out, but this is not often the case, and when it does happen, 
a local officer can easily, with the assistance of the village map, adjust 
them peaceably. 

The survey, I may here observe, has been of infinite value, as enabling 
the Government to apportion fairly the land revenue ; but if it had done 
nothing more than necessitate the settlement of the village boundaries, it 
would have conferred an inestimable benefit on the people. During 
several years I was employed in apportioning the land revenues of 
different districts, and, among other duties, had to superintend the settle- 
ment and demarcation of the village boundaries. Respectable native 
officers were employed ; they went from village to village, collected the 
headmen, and, if there was no dispute, marked off and defined the 
boundary in the presence of all parties, causing charcoal to be buried or 
landmarks erected. When there was any dispute, the officer endeavoured 
to settle it, and, if he was unable to do so, he reported it to his superior 
and went on to the next village. Another class, a superior grade, then 
took up the unadjusted cases, of which, after much trouble and delay, 
they were able to decide, perhaps, nine-tenths. The remainder lay over 
for the European officer, who visited the spot himself, and then obliged 
the people to settle it by arbitration of some kind or other. 

In this way, thousands of boundaries were fixed and decided in a very 
short space of time. In most cases, when the officer is on the spot, the 
matter is tolerably easily decided ; but I have known instances when he 
has been detained days, and even weeks, about a single boundary. In 
such cases he pitches his camp near the village, carries on his other 
duties, and remains as patiently as he can till the matter is settled. The 
tricks, the schemes, the deceit, the lies, to which each party has recourse 
in order to deceive, or to evade a decision when likely to go against them- 
selves, though to him a source of infinite annoyance, would be amusing 
to a looker on. It is vain for him to endeavour to settle the question 
himself, for he knows nothing of its merits, and, as to taking evidence in 
the matter, it would be useless. He might fill volumes with depositions, 
and, in the end, be a great deal more in the dark than when he began. 

I don't know that I can do better than relate one of the many hundred 
cases of the kind in I have been personally engaged. It was a dispute 
which, as far as I can recollect at this distant period, had remained 
pending for some twenty years, Though several of the district officers 
had, at different times, visited the spot and endeavoured to adjust the 
quarrel, it had baffled and wearied them out. 

In this case the right to several hundred acres of very fine land in the 
vicinity of the river was disputed, so that the property as well as the 
honour of both parties was involved. The rival villages were inhabited 
by people of the same caste, who were very powerful in that part of the 
country, and thus the matter excited general interest. What made the 


dispute more difficult to adjust was that the one village belonged to the 
British Government, the other to a neighbouring chief; so that the 
dispute involved the settlement of the ' district ' as well as the village 

The lands in both villages were held under a c coparcenary ' tenure — 
that is, by a brotherhood descended from a common ancestor. There 
were probably not less than five hundred proprietors, holding, among 
them, some eight or ten thousand acres in either village, all of which they 
occupied themselves ; the cultivated land being subdivided and owned, 
while the jungle was held in common. The village which could muster 
most fighting men was naturally least inclined to a legal adjustment of the 
question. They had appropriated the whole of the disputed area, and 
were powerful enough to retain possession. Any decision, therefore, they 
considered, could do them but little good and might injure them 

I had determined, however, that the question should now be set at 
rest for ever. So, writing to the chief to depute one of his confidential 
officers to meet me on the border, I set off for the spot, and pitched my 
camp in the neighbourhood. 

The chief gladly acceded to my proposition, and I was waited on by a 
venerable greybeard of some seventy years of age, who, after presenting 
his credentials, said that his party was in attendance, and was both ready 
and anxious for the adjustment of the dispute. This appeared pleasant 
enough. I immediately put a stop to all other matters, and, collecting 
the leaders of the two villages, they squatted themselves on the ground 
in a large circle around us. I quickly, however, saw, from the spirit dis- 
played by both sides, that there was little prospect of the case being speedily 
settled. Accordingly, I left them for a few days to discuss matters among 
themselves, but strictly enforced their attendance from morning until 
evening. When I thought they must be both well tired of each other, 
I would, now and then, look in to see how matters were advancing. At 
the end of the third day, I found that things were literally in statu quo. 
They had talked till they were tired, and, now, as they sat on their 
haunches, they were smoking away in perfect resignation and content- 

It is usual in these cases for a jury of twelve persons to be appointed, 
six of either party. But each village proposed to nominate such in- 
veterate partisans, that it became clearly hopeless to get a unanimous 
decision. In fact, there would have been much difficulty in finding any 
impartial person in the neighbourhood who possessed local knowledge 
sufficiently accurate to enable him to decide the boundary. Every one 
seemed to be enlisted on one side or the other. At last, when things 
seemed well-nigh desperate, I proposed to both parties that they should 
put the matter into the hands of one person, whose decision should be 

io 4 , LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. 1837-40 

final ; that our village should select a man of theirs, or that their village 
should select a man of ours. This was agreed to, and, so far, the question 
was narrowed. The discussion then arose, from which village the 
umpire should be chosen. It had at first struck me that the anxiety 
would be to have the selection of the umpire. On the contrary, however, 
either party wished their opponents to choose, being fully satisfied that 
there was no one in their respective villages so base as not to be willing 
to perjure himself for the general weal. The old chief, my co-com- 
missioner, was a venerable, and indeed respectable old man in his way, 
but acted as a mere partisan, not scrupling to use his influence and money 
in supporting his own party. The elders of the village, and indeed the 
whole community, were anxious to have any settlement of the business 
which would give them a portion of the land. On the other hand, they 
were rather afraid that I was zealous for the success of my own side, for 
it could not enter into their thoughts that I was simply anxious for the 
speedy adjustment of the boundary. My own party, who knew me better, 
were not so satisfied of my intentions towards them. Indeed, they well 
knew, from previous discussions, that I should not hesitate to uphold any 
settlement, however injurious to their interests, if I deemed it to be just. 

When both sides were fairly wearied out, the weaker party, seeing 
that if they failed in obtaining a decision now, their case was gone for 
ever, with many fears and doubts for the result, at last agreed to select 
an umpire from their rivals. This appeared a great triumph to the 
British villagers, who already fancied themselves secure of victory. A 
day was given for consultation with the brethren preparatory to selecting 
the umpire. Ten o'clock A.M. on the following day was fixed, when all 
parties were to assemble, and, after appointing this important personage 
and signing a few simple papers in which every one agreed to abide by the 
decision under heavy penalties, we were all to adjourn to the spot and, in 
the presence of the elders of the surrounding villages, to superintend the 
demarcation of the boundary. 

Accordingly, early on the following morning, every one was in atten- 
dance close to my tent, in a fine shady grove, which, for freshness of air 
and ample space, was much more pleasant than a confined tent. Here, 
then, I joined them at once, and called on our opponents to name their 
man. The elders all stood forth, and one venerable greybeard thus 
addressed me : 'Just one of the age ! In obedience to your instructions 
last night, we assembled in our choupal (public hall) the whole brother- 
hood, joint proprietors of our village lands. We explained to them the 
labour we had endured and the toils we had suffered in fighting the 
common cause in your court. We reminded them of the years which 
had passed since we had been wrongfully deprived of all use of the dis- 
puted lands. We enumerated the sums we had expended in fruitless 
attempts to obtain justice. We recalled to their remembrance the many 


sahibs who had visited the spot, and attempted, but all in vain, to define 
the boundary, so strong and mighty were our tyrants. We pointed out 
that now, by the special interposition of the Deity and our good fortune, 
a Sahib had arrived in whose eyes both parties were alike, and who would 
never see the weak and friendless oppressed ; that now was the time to 
secure a settlement of our claims, for, if we permitted the opportunity to 
pass, we might despair of ever getting our rights ; that, accordingly, we 
had determined to select an umpire, even from the adversaries' village, 
but had delayed finally doing so until we could gather the opinion of all 
who were interested.' 

The speaker then added that the whole village had unanimously 
approved of the proposal, and that he was ready to name the umpire, 
provided that the opposite party bound themselves, and that I promised, 
that, if the person so chosen failed to decide the boundary, I would 
decide it myself. To this I assented, and my villagers cordially agreed. 
The elder then said, 'We select Sahib Sing, son of Bulram, for our 
umpire, and we desire that he take his only son in his arms, and, laying 
his hand on his head, solemnly swear that he will faithfully and truly 
decide the boundary ; that if he perjures himself he hopes that his son 
may die, that he may never again have a child, that he may perish 
root and branch, and that he may have neither any of kin to perform 
his funeral rites, nor offspring to continue his line to posterity.' 

I may here remark that among all classes, but particularly among the 
Hindus, the first duty of a man, in a religious point of view, is to beget a 
son. To die and leave no son to perform the funeral rites to deliver the 
father from the hell called ' Put,' is considered the greatest of misfortunes. 
The natives of India are most attached parents, but the feeling towards 
the male offspring is quite extravagant. I recollect a merchant whose 
only son died. The loss turned the unfortunate father's head ; he de- 
stroyed his wife and two little girls, and then hanged himself. 

But to resume. When the old man had finished speaking, he folded 
his arms and stepped back among his companions. ' Well, Sahib Sing,' 
said I, ' what say you ? — do you consent ? ' Sahib Sing was a fine stout 
fellow of thirty, the son of one of the lately deceased headmen, and leader 
of one of the strongest and most influential 'thoks' or subdivisions of our 
village. Sahib Sing instantly agreed. All the documents, which had 
been previously prepared, were then signed, and things, at last, seemed in 
a fair train for settlement. 

An orderly was forthwith despatched to Sahib Sing's house for his 
son. After waiting for half-an-hour a second was despatched, but still no 
child made its appearance. At length, when more than an hour had ex- 
pired, the two orderlies returned, saying that the child was not to be found, 
and that both its mother and its grandmother said that they did not know 
what had become of it. Here was a new obstacle in our way. However, 


being too well acquainted with the ways of the people to be so easily 
baffled, I told our party to depute two of their number to search out the 
child, telling them that I would give them half-an-hour to produce it, and 
that if they failed to do so the cause should be decided by myself. On 
this, they hurried off, accompanied by the orderlies, and in a very short 
time returned with the boy, whom, it seems, his mother had concealed in 
a wooden chest, but produced on being threatened by the headman. I 
was greatly pleased, and commended them for their expedition, to which 
they, with seeming sincerity, replied that they were as eager to have the 
matter brought to an issue as I could be, and that all they wanted was 

Anxious to lose no more time, we all mounted our horses. The little 
boy was put on the elephant with the old chief, and, accompanied by 
hundreds of the villagers, many of them mounted on their brood mares 
and still more on foot, we took our way to the disputed boundary. Our 
road took us near the village, and, as we approached, we were met by- 
some hundreds of the women, headed by Sahib Sing's mother and wife, 
who insisted on the child's being given up, and reviled Sahib Sing, the 
headman, and indeed myself, with all the abuse in which the Hindustani 
language is so fluent. Nothing could exceed the uproar. They beat 
their breasts, tore their hair, and filled the air with their cries and lamen- 
tations. For some time I could hear naught but volleys of abuse, but at 
last gathered that the women, being fully impressed with the conviction 
that Sahib Sing's decision would cause the death of his child, were deter- 
mined, at all hazards, to rescue it from destruction. It was in vain that 
I pointed out to them that everything depended on the father himself, 
that his child's life was in his own hands, and that it was clearly out of 
the question that he would give any but a just decision, in which case the 
boy was perfectly safe. They were by no means satisfied, and with tears 
and entreaties implored me to restore the boy to his mother. Sahib Sing 
in the meantime sat on his mare in dogged silence, and gave no assist- 
ance one way or the other. Seeing that all explanation was utterly use- 
less I desired the cavalcade to proceed, upon which these viragoes seized 
my horse by the reins, declaring we should not proceed till the child was 
given up. It was with great difficulty and much delay that we finally 
got free from these ladies. Indeed, I believe that they would have 
succeeded in carrying off the child, had he not been perched out of their 

Many will, doubtless, exclaim against my conduct in thus lending my- 
self to the miserable superstition of the people. To this I reply that the 
ordeal was their own proposition, not mine, and that nothing short of it 
would have satisfied the parties interested. They had often heard me 
laugh at different absurdities of their religion, on which occasions I had 
reasoned with them, but in vain. ' No, no,' they said ; ' you English are 


very wise, we will allow, but you do not understand our religion.' In fact, 
as far as my experience goes, time and labour are utterly lost in such 
discussions. The only way that will ever bring the natives to truer and 
more enlightened ideas, is the gradual progress of infant education. The 
attempts to change the faith of the adult population have hitherto failed, 
and will, I am afraid, continue to fail. 

To resume my story. Having shaken off our assailants, we hurried 
on to the boundary, where, after duly examining and identifying the spot 
up to the point where the undisputed boundary of either village extended, 
Sahib Sing was called to do his duty as umpire — to take his child in his 
arms, and point out the ancient boundary line. In these discussions it is 
usual for the umpires, after examining, if necessary, the landmarks and 
features of the surrounding country, and satisfying themselves, to com- 
mence at the last undisputed landmark of the two villages, or, if the whole 
line is disputed, from the ' toka,' or spot which marks the boundary of 
their contiguous villages. From this point he walks forward, and what- 
ever route he takes is considered to be the boundary. The arbitrator is, 
of course, permitted to question parties or make any inquiries he may 
deem necessary. This, however, is seldom done, as he is usually selected 
for his intimate local knowledge. In the present case not only Sahib 
Sing but, I verily believe, every man in the two villages, was perfectly 
acquainted with the true and ancient boundary. 

Sahib Sing accordingly stood forward, took his child in his arms, 
looked at it, then at the surrounding multitude, turned again to his child, 
and, after a few moments' hesitation, put it down quietly, saying, ' I can- 
not decide the boundary.' There was a general murmur from the 
one side, and a half-suppressed cry of exultation from their opponents. 
I rode up immediately and called out, ' Come, come, Sahib Sing ! this 
trick won't do ; you shall decide the boundary or take the consequences.' 
Sahib Sing threw himself down, crying out, ' You may take my life, you 
may cut me in pieces, you may do with me what you please, but I never 
will decide the boundary.' ' Very good,' I replied, and turning to the 
headmen of his party, said, ' You have now exhausted every subterfuge 
and pretence, you have brought me to the spot, and the boundary must 
and shall be decided. I will give you one ghurree (twenty-four minutes) : 
if you can induce Sahib Sing to do the duty, which he has voluntarily un- 
dertaken, which you have all refused to any of your opponents, and 
which they, as a last resource, have given up to you, well and good ; if 
not, I will myself decide the boundary, and you know well what will be 
the result.' 

After saying this, I jumped off my horse and, throwing the reins to 
my groom, sat down to smoke a cigar, and ruminate as to what was most 
advisable to do in the event, which seemed probable, of Sahib Sing per- 
sisting in not deciding the boundary. 


For some reasons I would have been willing to undertake the decision. 
From all that I had gathered during the constant discussions, I was per- 
fectly satisfied that my own party were in the wrong. Our opponents 
had, in a measure, trusted their case in my hands, and I was loth to see 
them injured. I was satisfied in my own mind that it was the intention 
of the arbitrator to decide the line in favour of his own party. The 
anxiety of that party that he should act, his own bearing during the dis- 
cussion, the fears of the women for the child, all plainly indicated the 
probable result of the arbitration. I could not, it is true, have ascertained 
the precise position of the ancient landmarks, but, by making either 
party point out what they respectively deemed to be their own rights, 
and by collecting the opinions of the most respectable of the elders of 
neighbouring villages, I might have decided on a line approximating to 
the true one. Such a decision, however, would not have been popular ; 
it would have disgusted my own people completely ; and though I cared 
little about this, it would, in all probability, have led to future quarrels, 
and perhaps to the destruction of the boundary at some future period. 
It was a grand point, it possible, to secure a decision which would have 
the force of public opinion in its favour, a decision also which, being 
their own free act, either party would be ashamed to violate. The object, 
in short, was to make a settlement to which neither party could fairly 
object, and thereby secure the peace and tranquillity of this part of the 
district : and this seemed more likely to be obtained by Sahib Sing's 
decision than by any other means. If he gave it against his own people, 
their mouths were shut for ever, and if the other party lost, they lost by 
their own act, and, after all, were in no worse position than before. 

While such reflections were passing in my mind, I now and then 
overheard the headmen whispering and talking with Sahib Sing a little 
on one side. They were evidently urging and even threatening him, and 
he was as vehemently refusing. At last Sahib Sing jumped up exclaim- 
ing, ' You are a set of double-faced rascals : you want me to kill my 
child to secure your boundary ; you tell the Sahib one thing and me 
another ; you have forced me to it — I will settle the boundary, but in a 
way you won't like.' Saying this, he hastily seized the child in his arms 
and called out, ' I am ready, I will show you the boundary ! ' I had 
jumped up on hearing his voice, and seeing from his excited manner that 
he was evidently in earnest, called to him, ' Well done, Sahib Sing ! don't 
you be afraid of these fellows, I will protect you ; only let us have the 
true boundary.' 

The interest of all parties was now very great. The grass being 
rather high in some parts, Sahib Sing mounted his horse, with his child 
in front of him and with one of my orderlies to lead the animal according 
to his directions. As we rode forward, previous to reaching a particular 
point it was doubtful how he intended to act, but when he passed that 


mark and turned to the right, the howl of execration which burst from 
our villagers showed that Sahib Sing, for once in his life at least, had 
acted fairly. ' Never mind ! ' I exclaimed ; ' go on, Sahib Sing ; don't 
mind these fellows.' The tumult which now ensued was very great. The 
villagers began pelting him with stones and clods of earth, and pressing 
on all sides towards him. I had some mounted men with me, and, 
perhaps, twice as many footmen, who endeavoured to keep back the 
crowd. It was to no purpose that I roared out and threatened them ; 
the clamour drowned my voice ; a few minutes' delay, and Sahib Sing 
would have been pulled from his mare. Seeing matters in such a state, 
I galloped up to one of the rioters, who was making himself very con- 
spicuous in front of his party, urging and exciting them to the attack. 
The fellow, nothing daunted, stood his ground. Seeing that it was the 
critical moment, on which everything depended, I let the butt-end of my 
heavy hunting whip fall with such force on his head that he was down in 
an instant. His followers, seeing his fate, turned immediately and fell 
back. Order was quickly restored, and the boundary was carried to the 
end without further interruption. 

The boundary being once defined, everything went on smoothly. 
Charcoal was buried at intervals, and pillars of strong masonry erected 
at particular points where the line suddenly bent, and a sketch map ol 
the country, roughly though correctly prepared, was duly recorded. To 
this no opposition was offered. The battle had been fought and won, 
and either side had done their best. It was fate, and not any neglect on 
their part, which had decided it against my people. I saw Sahib Sing a 
few days after, and, on questioning him, he told me that though some 
had grumbled, on the whole his people were not dissatisfied, The 
general feeling seemed to be, ' What could he do ? — he could not kill his 
own child.' The fact was, Sahib Sing had a strong following of friends 
and relatives in the village, so that the most sulky found it necessary to 
be satisfied with the common loss. Shere Sing, whose head I had so 
summarily broken, had also the audacity to make his appearance before 
I left. The fellow actually seemed to make a boast of his broken pate. 
' Shere Sing,' said I, 'take warning and do not get into any more rows ; 
it was well for you the other day that you did not lose your life.' * Oh ! ' 
said he smiling, ' I have no excuse to make ; I could never have shown 
my face in the village had I not resisted. That blow of yours, though it 
was rather too heavy, saved my honour. Every one declared that I had 
shown myself a real supporter of the village interests. May your Honour 
live a thousand years, but don't strike so hard another time ! ' 

I will here conclude by remarking that the decision and the way in 
which it was brought about was highly lauded far and near, and, what 
was still better, it facilitated the settlement of many similar disputes. 
I had not another contested boundary that season. 
Delhi : March 20, 1845. 


Towards the end of 1839, before the time had come for the 
heavier portion of the settlement work at Etawa, John Lawrence and 
his friend Cumine were both taken seriously ill, and the district 
found itself deprived at once of its collector and its settlement 
officer. Cumine was the first to recover, and was at once moved 
down to a healthier climate at Allahabad, but John Lawrence's 
illness was much more severe. It was an attack of jungle fever. 
During nearly a month his life was in danger, and, for a time, it was 
despaired of. And here I may give an. anecdote which he used to 
tell himself, and is not a little characteristic of his energy and deter- 
mination. He had often been heard to say, in the abounding and 
jubilant strength of his youth, that he was sure that many a man 
need not die, if he made up his mind not to do so. But he was 
now rapidly becoming worse and appeared to be in a state of collapse, 
One day, the doctor who had been attending him told him that he 
"feared he could hardly live till the following morning, and took leave 
of him accordingly. No sooner was he gone than his patient roused 
himself to the emergency. Now was the chance of putting his 
favourite maxim to the test. He determined not to die, and bade 
his servant give him a bottle of burgundy which lay in a box beneath 
his bed. He drank it off, and, next day, when the doctor called, by 
way of form, expecting to find that all was over, he found John 
Lawrence sitting up at his desk, clothed and in his right mind, and 
actually casting up his settlement accounts ! 

It is recorded of the Roman emperor Vespasian that, when he 
felt death coming upon him, he bade his servants set him on his 
feet, ' for an emperor ought to leave the world standing ; ' and 
standing he actually died. It was a truly imperial resolve. The 
result was different ; but the spirit, the force of will, the keenness of 
the intellect, the strength of the affections which dies not with the 
dying physical powers — nay, is often strung in that supreme moment 
to its greatest tension, and is, surely, not the weakest earnest of a 
life beyond the grave — were the same in each. The Roman emperor 
had done his work, and the only thing that remained for him to do 
was to die like an emperor and like a man. Lawrence, whether he 
felt it or not— and it is hardly possible that he did not feel it — had 
but just finished the preparation for his great work. 

Something ere the end, 
Some work of noble note may yet be done, 
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods. 


Tho' much is taken, much abides, and tho' 

We are not now that strength which in old days 

Moved earth and heaven ; that which we are, we are ; 

One equal temper of heroic hearts, 

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will, 

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. 

Such were the thoughts that John Lawrence may well have had in 
his mind. If they, or anything like them, did occur to him, he read 
in them his own character correctly enough. If they did not, the 
spirit, the mettle, the temper they imply were still there, and in any 
case, he lived long enough abundantly to justify them. 

As soon as he was sufficiently recovered from his illness to bear 
the fatigue of moving, he was driven down, for the last time, through 
the ' familiar streets of old ruinous Etawa ' to the ghaut, was put on 
board a boat, and, in company with his friend Major Wroughton, 
who had helped to nurse him through his illness, dropped down the 
' clear cold stream of the Jumna ' to Allahabad. Here he rejoined 
his colleague Cumine, who had gone thither in a country cargo-boat 
shortly before, and had spent a fortnight on the voyage. On 
November 19, they all set off again down the Ganges for Calcutta. 
The change of air and rest brought back health and strength apace, 
and gave them after their long starvation, as Cumine expressed it, 
the 'appetite of an ostrich.' At Ghazipore they met Robert Tucker, 
who was afterwards murdered in his own house during the Mutiny. 
They spent one day with him, a second at Dinapore, and a third at 
Monghir, walking about 'its grassy plain, formerly the bustling 
interior of the fort.' One night they passed at Chandernagore, and 
they arrived in Calcutta, at Spence's Hotel, on December 22. Here 
John Lawrence had a dangerous relapse, and, on his recovery, he 
was ordered by his doctor to go on furlough for three years, and, 
after a three months' stay in Calcutta, necessitated by his weak state, 
and another three months spent on the voyage home, he arrived in 
England in June 1840. 

Here, then, ends the first stage of John Lawrence's Indian career, 
the period of his training and probation. He had passed through 
all the grades of a young civilian's education, not in their regular 
order, but, as often happened in the Delhi territory, piled one upon 
the other and mixed up together in such a way as to give him the 
greatest possible amount and variety of experience in the smallest 
possible space of time. He was fortunate, certainly, in the places 


to which he had been posted — Delhi, Paniput, Gurgaon, Etawa — 
and he was fortunate also, on the whole, in the men with whom, 
whether as his superiors or his colleagues, he had hitherto been 
brought into contact. But here the work of fortune ended. His 
own energy, his own endurance, his own courage, his own self- 
reliance, his own enthusiasm for work, above all, his own sympathy 
with the natives, had done all the rest. If in these first ten years he 
had risen, as one who had the best right to speak expressed it, ' half 
a head above his fellows,' he owed that rise not to high birth or 
patronage or favour or luck of any kind, but to his own intrinsic 
merits. And, perhaps, I cannot better end these chapters which 
I have dedicated to the earlier and more adventurous, and probably, 
in some respects, the happier part of his career, than by quoting the 
graphic sketch given of it in the ' Leisure Hour/ i860, by one who 
afterwards served under him for many years in the Punjab, was one 
of his most intimate and trusted friends, and was selected by him to 
write the life of his illustrious brother, Sir Henry Lawrence. 

John Lawrence (says Sir Herbert Edwardes) soon had to leave head- 
quarters at Delhi and go out into the district ; and it was there, away 
from all Europeans, thrown upon the natives for help, obedience, useful- 
ness, success, and even sympathy, that the John Lawrence of great days 
was trained. He worked hard and made his 'omlah' — native functionary 
— do the same, ever on the watch to bar bribery, by being sole master in 
his own court. Then was his day of details— a day that comes once, and 
only once, to all apprentices — and he seized it, laying up a store of 
knowledge of all kinds, official, revenue, judicial, social, agricultural, 
commercial ; learning, in fact, to know the races which it was his lot to 
rule. Work over, out into the fields with horse or gun ; for his strong 
frame and hardy spirit loved wild sports. But ever an eye to business — 
some jungle lair of cutthroats to be explored, some scene of crime to be 
examined by the way, some slippery underling to be surprised. And so, 
home at sunset, with fine appetite for the simple meal that he eats who 
has others in the world to help. After that, more air — for the nights are 
hot — an easy chair outside in the bright moonlight, with our large John 
in it, without coat or waistcoat, and shirt-sleeves up over his elbows, his 
legs on another chair, a bowl of tea by his side, and a tobacco weed in 
his mouth, smoking grandly ; altogether much at home, a giant in the act 
of refreshment. One by one the greybeards of the district drop in too ; 
not particular in dress, but just as the end of the day left them, uninvited, 
but quite welcome, and squat, Eastern fashion, on their heels and ankles, 
in a respectfully feudal ring, about their Saxon khan, each wishing 'peace' 
as he sits down. A pleasant scene this of human black and white 


mingling into grey under an Indian moon. The chat is all about the 
district and the people, bygone traditions of the last conquest by the 
Moguls, and how they parcelled it out to their great lords, who built 
those red-brick towers near the wells, still standing, though, happily, 
decayed by peace ; the changes they have all seen since they were young ; 
the beating of the sword and spear into the ploughshare ; the disap- 
pearance of that celebrated breed of long-winded horses ; the increase of 
buffaloes ; the capture year by year, and one by one, of those renowned 
dacoits, of whom John Lawrence himself rode down the last ; the great 
famine, and which villages died off and which lived through, as witness 
their present state, known to all sitting here ; the debts and lawsuits that 
grew therefrom, and the endless case that's coming on in court to-morrow, 
about which John, listening, picks up some truths ; and so on till mid- 
night, when, the air being cool enough for sleep, the white khan yawns 
and the dark elders take their leave, much content with this kind of 

VOL. I. 




The great difficulty with which the biographer of John Lawrenc 
has to contend throughout his work, the absence of all journals, and 
of nearly all strictly private correspondence, is nowhere more felt 
than when, as now, at the time of his three years' furlough, his public 
life crosses and becomes intertwined with that of his family. It 
might have been expected that it would have been easier, to say the 
least, to give an adequate description of John Lawrence in the midst 
of his family at Clifton than to picture him, the one white man among 
thousands of dusky faces in the wilds of Paniput or among the 
robber tribes of Gurgaon. But such, unfortunately, is not the case. 
It is only from a few waifs and strays of information which it has, 
probably, cost me as many weeks to collect and to winnow as it will 
take my readers minutes to glance through, that I am able to say 
anything at all of John Lawrence's family, of the changes which he 
must have found in them, and they in him, after his ten years' 
absence, and of the way in which he employed his unwonted time 
of leisure. And this paucity of the materials on which a biographer 
usually most depends seems all the more strange, when contrasted 
with the superabundant wealth of the materials which the biographer 
of Sir Henry Lawrence found ready to his hand. Besides the 
inestimable advantage of an intimate and lifelong acquaintance with 
the subject of his memoir, and his presence at many of the scenes 
which he describes, Sir Herbert Edwardes appears to have had in 
his possession an unlimited number of private letters written by Sir 
Henry Lawrence to the different members of his family, and by the 
different members of his family to him ; of journals kept by Sir 
Henry himself, by his mother, and by his wife ; finally, of letters 
written by that talented wife to his and her friends in various parts 
of the world, and giving graphic pictures, drawn on the spot, of the 


various actions in which he bore a part. Of all these advantages 
I am in great part destitute, and all that I can do is to make the best 
of such scanty materials as I have been able to get together. 

It has been suggested, whether malevolently or otherwise, as an 
explanation of the abundance of materials for the inner life of Henry 
and of their paucity for that of John, that, in quite early days, the 
friends and relations of the elder brother foresaw that he would be a 
great man, while they failed to descry any indications of a brilliant 
future in the younger j they therefore preserved the letters of the 
one and destroyed those of the other. There may be some truth in 
this, for there can be no doubt that John was of a tardier develop- 
ment than Henry, and that some of the qualities which fascinated 
people most in the elder brother were wanting in the younger, or, at 
all events, lay deeper beneath the surface. But, apart from this, the 
differences in the character and temperament of the two brothers 
will go far, I think, to account for the different nature of their corre- 
spondence. Henry, his brain seething with half-developed thoughts 
and his heart stirred by warm and over-mastering emotions, found 
habitual relief in pouring them forth in letters. John felt no such 
need, or not to the same degree. He seldom wrote without an im- 
mediate and practical object. When this was to be secured his pen 
was that of a forcible as well as of a ready writer. And, once more, 
it will be remembered, also, that the letters which he did write con- 
tinuously throughout his life to his favourite sister, and in which he, 
undoubtedly, did pour out without restraint all that he thought and 
felt, were, as I have already related, deliberately destroyed by him 
after her death. 

John Lawrence reached his home at Clifton. But it was not the 
home which he had left. No one, I suppose, ever returned to his 
home after an absence of ten years, especially if his family happened 
to have been a large one, without finding at least as much cause to 
miss the absent as to rejoice in those that are present. Of those 
who loved him, and whom he loved best, he will be likely to find 

That the old friends all are fled, 
And the young friends all are wed, 

and that, even of those who are neither the one nor the other, some 
at least will necessarily be dead to him. Ten years are a large slice, 
as many a returned Anglo-Indian has found to his cost, of the allotted 
threescore and ten, and the gap made by them in interests and occu- 


pations and sympathies, even between hearts that are naturally loving 
and sympathetic, is so wide that the currents of life, which have 
issued from the same fountain-head, and are destined, it may be, 
like the two great rivers of China, to approach one another again to- 
wards their close, are often found, in the dead level of middle life, to 
be meandering, like those same two rivers, in channels which are 
very far apart. 

Two great changes had taken place in the Clifton home since 
John Lawrence had left it. The fine old father, who had entertained 
his son during his youthful walks with so many stories of his adven- 
turous campaigns, and who might, had he lived, have listened now, 
in his turn, in the chair of dozing age, to stories of adventures at 
least as strange and as stirring from the lips of that same son, had 
ended his rugged life in peace, in May 1835, at the age of seventy- 
three. His, eldest son, Alexander, who is said to have been his 
favourite, had returned from Madras just in time to gladden his 
father's eyes, and then to close them in death. 

The other change was almost as great. John's eldest sister 
Letitia, whose pre-eminent claims on their affection and respect had, 
from their earliest youth, been so promptly recognised by all her 
brothers, had herself left the parental home, and married a venerable 
old clergyman, Mr. Hayes, who seems to have been unknown to the 
family before. 

Happily, the kind and simple-hearted mother whom I have de- 
scribed at the outset of this biography, was still living and in com- 
parative comfort, though not upon the fortune left her by her husband. 
Ever ready, as he had been in his Irish generosity, to share his last 
crust or his last shilling with a friend, the old veteran had left her 
nothing but his name, his spirit, and his sons. She was living there- 
fore on the proceeds of a fund which, all unknown to her, had, for 
years past, been gradually accumulating, from the contributions of 
her four gallant sons — not one of whom had more than a bare suffi- 
ciency of this world's goods — in India. It was called by them the 
' Lawrence Fund,' and had been started, in the first instance, by 
Henry. It was Henry who — to quote the words of a letter of his 
own — « had rather dunned ' the more tardy and cautious John into 
taking it up at first, but had soon found, as the same letter gene- 
rously goes on to acknowledge, that, once committed to the scheme, 
John had put ' all the other brothers to shame ' by the zeal that he 
had thrown into it. It was John, henceforward, who managed the 


fund, who contributed largely to it, who directed the successive in- 
vestments, and, more than this, acted as the financier of the family 

Henry, lavishly generous, like his father, of his money and care- 
less of the future, would not, as he often admitted, have saved the 
barest competency for his wife and family had it not been for his 
brother John's taking his affairs in hand. John, on the other hand, 
had a sense of the true value of money. He was not niggardly — far 
from it, as one or two out of a score of anecdotes which I hope 
hereafter to quote will show. He was at all times most generous. 
But his generosity was tempered by prudence, and by a sense of the 
relative claims of others upon him. And, better far than being 
prodigal of his money, he was prodigal of the pains that he took in 
saving and in securing it for other people. He managed in this way, 
purely as a labour of love, the incomes of a large number of persons 
quite unconnected with him, who were unable, or thought they were 
unable, to manage them for themselves. 

A third change in the family at Clifton must not be passed over. 
The old nurse Margaret, who had tended all the members of the 
family from infancy up to manhood, whose room had been a sanc- 
tuary of peace and tenderness and repose in a somewhat stiff and stern 
household, and who had, of course, continued to live on with the 
family long after her proper work was done, as the member most in- 
dispensable to each and all of them, had passed away. There are 
few ties more sacred and more indissoluble than those which unite 
the younger, ay, and the elder members of a family to an old and 
trusted nurse. Witness it some of the most exquisite passages in all 
literature, from the time of Deborah the aged nurse of Rebekah, in 
the Book of Genesis, and ' Allon Bachuth,' ' the oak of tears,' or from 
Eurykleia, the nurse and confidante alike of Telemachus and Pene- 
lope in the ' Odyssey,' right down to the ' Lord of the Isles ' and the 
1 Lady of the Lake,' or again to Tennyson's 'nurse of ninety years,' 
whose true childward instincts tapped the fountain of the newly 
widowed mother's tears, and reminded her that her husband's child 
was something which made life still worth living. 

John Lawrence would have been unlike himself had he not felt 
the blank deeply. But it is not the least touching trait in a character 
so strong, so active, so practical, and which could, when occasion re - 
quired, be so stern, so unbending, so iron, that his first journey after 
his return to England was a pilgrimage to the spot in a distant county 


in which his old nurse was buried. Many memories must have been 
awakened within him as he stood beside her grave, but perhaps none 
so freshly as that morning in Ostend in the year of the battle of 
Waterloo, when his childish championship of his nurse disarmed the 
suspicions of the magistrate, and he returned proudly home with her, 
thinking that henceforward he must take charge of her rather than 
she of him. What wonder that many years later, in India, her 
memory was still fresh within him, and that he could find no fitter 
name for one of his daughters than that of his old nurse Margaret ? 

How the aged mother welcomed her son John, the chief manager 
of the family purse and a generous contributor to her income, we do 
not know from any written document, for I have been unable to meet 
with any letter, or entry, at all analogous to that in which she notes 
the change which three years' absence had produced in her elder son 
Henry, when he had first returned from India. It is clear that he 
did not recover from the effects of his illness for some time. But all 
the accounts which have reached me, represent him as in the most 
exuberant spirits, travelling about from one country to another, seeing 
all that was to be seen, in full pursuit of what is commonly supposed 
to be the leading object of a young civilian on furlough from India, 
and enjoying all the vicissitudes of the pursuit, its ups and its downs, 
its hopes and its fears, in a way which is highly indicative of his good- 
humoured frankness and manly directness of character. 

In August, two months after he landed, we find him at Glasgow. 
There he met his Etawa friend, Cumine, and took a tour with him 
through the Western Highlands — a tour which was doubly interesting 
to him, as Sir Walter Scott's names and localities were always fresh in 
his memory. Of Scott, indeed, in common with so many of his gene- 
ration, he was passionately and justly fond. His boyhood had been 
nursed upon ' the great enchanter's ' writings, especially upon the more 
historical of his novels. They were among the few books which he 
was either able, or disposed, to read in the heyday of his working 
life in India ; and one of the very last books read to him by his lady 
secretary, Miss Gaster, long after his sight had gone, and not a few 
premonitory symptoms of his approaching end had come upon him, 
was ' Guy Mannering ' — read then for I am afraid to say what number 
of times ! 

In September, he went to Ireland, and revisited Foyle College 
and the ramparts of Londonderry. And it was while he was on a 
visit to Mr. Young of Culdaff House, in County Donegal, the squire 


of the parish, and near neighbour of its rector, the Rev. Richard 
Hamilton, that he met for the first time the lady who was eventually 
to share his destinies. Nothing appears to have been either said or 
done then which at all implied what was to follow a year later ; but 
' all the Hamilton family felt that a new and wonderful element had 
come into their lives, and his vivacity and stories were a theme of 
constant conversation among them.' The red-hot Tory creed, in 
which they had been naturally brought up, received many a rough 
and kindly shock from the reforming views of the young Indian 

Later on in the autumn, John Lawrence paid a visit to the Con- 
tinent, and took up his quarters for some months at Bonn with his 
much-loved sister-in-law, Mrs. George Lawrence, whose husband was 
in Afghanistan. ' He kept open house, 5 says Colonel Ramsay, who 
met him there, ' and was a great favourite with many of the students. 
Amongst them were Prince Holstein, now the King of Denmark, 
Prince Frederick of Hesse, his future brother-in-law, Prince Mecklen- 
berg-Schwerin, the present Sir Vincent Corbet, myself and others, 
and many a pleasant evening we passed in his house. Years after- 
wards, when I was on the Headquarters Staff at the Horse Guards, 
on the arrival in this country of Prince Christian of Denmark, formerly 
Prince Holstein, with his daughter, now the Princess of Wales, and 
the Prince of Hesse, they all, remembering me as a fellow-student at 
Bonn, asked with much interest what had become of Mr. John 
Lawrence, of whose hospitalities they retained so pleasant a recollec- 
tion.' These hospitalities, it will be easily understood, soon exhausted 
his purse, which was not, at that time, a heavy one, and he was obliged 
early in the year to return to England and live more economically 
among his friends. 

In the April following, he paid a fortnight's visit to Mr. and Mrs. 
Hayes, who were then living in Marlborough Buildings, Bath ; and 
I am fortunately able to quote here some graphic reminiscences of him 
as he then was, contributed by Mrs. Kensington, who, as a young girl, 
was living with Mrs. Hayes, and managed, during this fortnight, to lay 
the foundation of a lifelong friendship with him. 

John Lawrence (she says) spent a fortnight in the house, and the 
general impression which he left on my mind is one of wonderful energy 
and straightforward going at whatever was to be done. The two great 
objects of his life just then were to recover his health, and to find a wife 
fit to be a helpmeet indeed, and it was the great amusement of my sister 


and myself to watch the business-like way in which he pursued both 
objects. He still looked rather gaunt and ill, and as he had already won 
a considerable reputation I had at first been inclined to think him for- 
midable, till I saw him on the sofa with his arm round his sister, whom 
he always called, ' Lettice dear.' His love for her was a distinguishing 
feature, and used to be displayed in a way that was very surprising to 
those who regarded her as we did, as a woman far removed from the 
lightness of ordinary mortals. He would romp with her and keep up a 
perpetual chaff, finding a continual source of fun in the age and pecu- 
liarities of Mr. Hayes, for whom he had nevertheless a great respect, though 
he used to take great delight in teasing her about him, and saying that he 
was the very model of a decoy thug. His conversation was always lively 
and interesting, abounding in anecdotes of his curious experiences in 
India, of the natives, and of horses, of which last he was specially fond. 
He was very indifferent to any of the luxuries of life or refinements of 
society, and disposed to mock at those who laid much stress on them as 
necessaries. A ' cakey-man ' was his favourite term of contempt for any 
one who pretended to much elegance and refinement. At breakfast it 
was his habit to cut off the crust of the loaf, and, having made his meal 
upon it and a simple cup of tea, he was ready for conversation, and would 
keep us all amused with his account of his adventures the night before at 
the various parties he went to in the hope of meeting with the possible 
wife, who was always spoken of as ' the calamity.' He had very decided 
and clear ideas as to the style of woman he wished for his companion. 
Good health, good temper, and good sense, were the three essential re- 
quisites, and if they happened to be combined with good looks so much 
the better ; but he at once rejected all temptation to be fascinated by the 
regular ball-going beauties of Bath. 

His manners and appearance were utterly unlike the ordinary young 
men we met in Bath. It was difficult not to feel a little shocked at first 
by his roughness and absence of conventionality ; still there was so 
much force and originality apparent in his whole character, that one soon 
forgot the defects of manner, and became interested in his conversation. 
As I remember him, he seemed to me to embody Professor Henry 
Morley's notion of the qualities which have given to Englishmen their 
proud position in the world, namely, l the determination to find out the 
right and get it done ; find out the wrong and get it undone.' I have a 
lively recollection of the pains he took to convince me of the justice 
of admitting Jews into Parliament. Much of his talk was about his 
horses — how he would keep them loose in his tent, and how the natives 
who came in, always made their salaam to the horse after paying their 
respects to him. He would tell also how, when he wanted game to shoot, 
he would set the native musicians to play in the woods to frighten the 
pigs. Later on in the same year (1841) we saw him again at Lynton, in 


North Devon, where Mr. and Mrs. Hayes always spent the summer. 
The matter of finding a 'calamity' was still undecided, and he was still 
on the search. 

It was during his stay at Lynton that John Lawrence paid a visit 
to his friend and relative, the famous John Sterling, who was then 
living at Falmouth. In the near neighbourhood of Falmouth was 
Penjerrick, the now almost classic abode of the Fox family— the home 
of everything that was pure and lovely and of good report. It was 
not likely that Sterling would allow John Lawrence to leave his house 
without introducing him to a family amongst whom he was so frequent 
and welcome a visitor ; and in the ' Journals and Letters of Caroline 
Fox,' one of the most lovable of women, I find the following entry 
referring to the visit of the young Indian civilian : — 

1841. May 10. — Amusing day. J. Sterling has a friend and connec- 
tion here, a Mr. Lawrence, an Indian judge, and he brought him to call. 
India the principal topic. Lawrence was describing an illness in which 
he was most tenderly nursed and borne with by his native servants. 
* Yes, 5 said Sterling, ' patience, submission, and fortitude are the virtues 
which characterise an enslaved nation ; their magnanimity and heroism 
are all of the passive kind.' Lawrence spoke of the stationary kind of pro- 
gress which Christianity was making amongst them. When a native 
embraces this new creed, he retains his old inveterate prejudices and 
superadds only the liberty of the new faith. This Lawrence has re- 
peatedly proved, so much so that he would on no account take one of 
these converts into his service. All his hope is in the education of the 
children, who are bright and intelligent. The Indians will from polite- 
ness believe all you tell them, and if you speak of any of Christ's miracles, 
they make no difficulty, but directly detail one more marvellous of which 
Mohammed was the author, and expect your civility of credence to keep 
pace with theirs. If you try to convince them of any absurdities or in- 
consistencies in the Koran, they stop you with, ' Do you think that such 
an one as I should presume to understand it?' Sterling remarked, 'Have 
you never heard anything like that in England ? ' 

May 24. — Joseph Bonaparte, his son and grandson, in the harbour 
(Falmouth) ; Barclay and Lawrence visited them under the shade of the 
American consulate. They shook hands and conversed with the old 
man for some time, and admired exceedingly for some time the little boy, 
who is the image of Napoleon. His father, the Prince Charles Bonaparte, 
a fine-looking man. 1 

1 Caroline Fox : Her Journals and Letters, p. 238, etc. Edited by Horace N. 
Pym. Smith, Elder, & Co. 1882. 

122 LIFE OF LORD LA WRENCE. 1840-42 

Once more, in June 1844, John Lawrence returned to Ireland, 
leaving the fashionable and ball-going beauties of Bath and Chelten- 
ham and Lynton — 

for some three careless moons 
The summer pilots of an empty heart 
Unto the shores of nothing 

— without regret behind him ; and there, on his renewed meeting with 
the young Irish maiden, the best part of whose life had been passed 
in the wilds of Donegal, and who combined, as the result proved, all 
the charms which we usually associate with a beautiful Irish girl — 
simplicity, sprightliness, vivacity, and grace — with those more solid 
qualities which were to make her the worthy companion and sharer 
and comforter of the most laborious and heroic of lives, even to the 
very end, he found as the result of his prolonged ' search ' among 
girls who might have momentarily attracted him, that 

Such touches were but embassies of love, 
To tamper with the feelings ere he found 
Empire for life. 

An empire for life indeed it was, as the course of this biography, 
without, it is to be hoped, lifting too much of the veil which hangs, and 
ought to hang, before the bridal chambers of the heart, will abun- 
dantly show. And John Lawrence found that love henceforward not 
only ruled his life, but trebled it within him. 

But of what stock did Harriette Catherine Hamilton come? 
There is no part of a biography which is apt to appear so tedious and 
unnecessary to the general reader as the, perhaps, inevitable paragraphs 
which give the genealogy of its subject. Yet even the most demo- 
cratic of critics will admit that family and descent count for not a 
little in the formation of character. While I avoid, therefore, such 
details as may be found in Sir Bernard Burke and similar authorities, 
I propose to say just so much of the ancestry and antecedents of the 
Mrs. John Lawrence that was to be, as may show the kind of family 
in which her husband was to find so worthy a companion. 

The Hamiltons, offshoots of the ducal family of that name in 
Scotland, had first crossed into Ireland in the time of Queen Eliza- 
beth. One of them, who had done good service to King James in 
the country of his adoption, was rewarded by him with large estates 
in County Down, and was created Viscount Clandeboye and DurTerin. 
His other brothers also became large landowners in Ireland, and from 


one of these Harriette Hamilton was directly descended. Her grand- 
father, James Hamilton, of Sheep Hill in County Dublin, is said to 
have married three times, and to have been blessed with a family of. 
truly patriarchal dimensions. Sir Bernard Burke credits him with 
thirty-six sons and daughters j but the family tradition runs that there 
were thirty-nine in all — a tradition confirmed by the witticisms current 
at the time, some of which, turning on the Protestant orthodoxy of a 
family which owed so much to it, compared them to the Thirty-nine 
Articles ; while others, taking the prudential view, suggested that they 
were more akin to the ' forty stripes save one ! ' 

Richard Hamilton, Harriette's father, was first presented to a living 
ten miles from Dublin, in County Meath. Like many of the livings 
of the good old times, it was considered to be a good living because 
there was so little to do in it. But the new rector was a man of great 
energy and courage, who, when he found that he had no work to do, 
would be sure to make it for himself ; and having been appointed a 
justice of the peace, he found a field for his superabundant energies 
in playing, like his future son-in-law, the Collector-Magistrate of Delhi, 
the double role of policeman and magistrate. 

At that time, the county of Meath was sadly disturbed by a com- 
bination of agrarian conspirators called ' carders ' — men who tortured 
their victims with an implement armed with long steel teeth like the 
' cards 5 used for dressing wool. Their outrages had produced great 
consternation in the district, and every effort was required to suppress 

Every night (says a son of his, the present Archdeacon Hamilton) 
my father used to leave his home, sometimes at the head of a small party 
sometimes accompanied only by one trusted servant, his factotum, 
Andrew Rabb. These night expeditions were much disliked by his 
household, who lived in dread from the moment that the chain and bars 
were closed across the hall door till the return of their master in the 
early morning ; and many an amusing story he used to tell us of his ad- 
ventures in these patrols. Among others, one especially recurs to my 
memory. With his trusted attendant he came by chance upon a noto- 
rious offender, for whom search had long been made, and succeeded in 
apprehending him. The capture took place at a great distance from his 
home, and in an unfrequented road which offered abundant opportunities 
for escape. My father and Rabb were both of them stout large men, and 
well mounted, but their prisoner was nimble as a hare, and the difficulty 
was to prevent his escape on the way back. While my father held the 
two horses, Rabb clung like grim death to his prisoner, but exclaimed 


while doing so, ' We shall never be able to get him safe home.' My 
father, quick in resource, replied, ' Cut the waistband of his breeches, 
these being the nether garments universally worn at that day, and still 
worn by many of the peasants in County Meath. This done, their 
prisoner, finding himself, despite his agility, unable to run or jump, sur- 
rendered at discretion, and, before morning, was safely lodged in jail. 

Would that there were a few hundred men like Richard Hamilton 
in the outlying districts of Ireland now ! How many outrages would 
a Spartan rampart of this kind have rendered impossible or promptly 
punished ; how many measures of coercion would it have rendered 
unnecessary ! What dismay and panic would the neighbourhood of 
one such man spread among the miserable creatures whose highest 
deed of prowess is to lurk in groups, with blackened faces, for their 
unprotected victims behind a loopholed wall, or to maim and muti- 
late the unoffending cattle of those who have had the courage and 
the honesty to discharge their obligations ! In the year 181 5, this 
energetic guardian of civil order married Catherine Tipping, a girl of 
great personal attractions and charm of manner. And a few years 
later — those being the days of pluralism — he was given the two rich 
livings of Culdaff and Cloncha in County Donegal, and he moved, 
with his infant family, from the rich and populous county of Meath, 
within ten miles of Dublin, to the remote and bleak coast of Ulster. 
The young wife's heart, it is said, sank within her when she first came 
in sight of her new home, and she burst into a flood of tears. But 
these were first impressions only, and the warm hearts of the friends 
she found, and the friends she made there, proved to be in inverse 
ratio to the bleakness and solitude of its first aspect. She soon came 
to love Donegal for its own sake, and was loved by the people in 
turn. It was in this fine bracing climate, with its beautiful and bold 
sea-coast, that Harriette Hamilton spent her earliest years. Her one 
sister had been married to Dr. Evory Kennedy, an hereditary friend 
of the family, whose interesting reminiscences of his own and of the 
Lawrences' school-days I have already quoted ; and the chief events 
in her quiet life were, henceforward, her visits to her sister's home in 
Dublin, and the periodical return of her two brothers from school 
and college for their vacation. 

Few girls (she says) lived in a more simple way, but I was very happy, 
and enjoyed an active out-of-door life, taking in health and strength. My 
mother was very delicate, and I had plenty to do in looking after her and 
my father, who had then become an invalid. I used to read a good deal 


with my mother, and although girls of the present day would have thought 
this a dull life, somehow or other I never felt it so. Our pleasures were 
few and simple, but, such as they were, we thoroughly enjoyed them, 
and our home was most truly a happy one. My mother's life was full of 
interest, for she helped my father in all his work. I well remember going 
about among the poor with her, and how she was welcomed and loved 
by them all. My father was, I think, more liberal in his views than the 
clergy of his day in Ireland usually were, for he warmly approved of the 
National Education movement, and was always on good terms with the 
Roman Catholic clergy of the county. My mother would visit among 
the Roman Catholics as well as amongst our own people, and the priests 
never made any objection. 

Thus Harriette Hamilton's early life passed peacefully on, till 
the arrival of John Lawrence with his unbounded vivacity, his 
marked originality of character, his splendid physique, and his stories 
of Indian adventure — with which the hunter-down of the ' carders ' 
of Meath must have had not a little personal sympathy — came across 
its calm and even current. The engagement lasted two months only, 
and on August 26, 1841, the marriage took place. It was of course 
a great event in the little parish ; and rich and poor, high and low, 
Catholic and Protestant, came from far and near to do honour to the 
bride and her family. 

A marriage is never to those who look below the surface a time 
of unmixed gladness. To the family principally concerned a wedding 
is only less solemn and less melancholy than a funeral. If new ties 
are formed, old ones are inevitably broken ; and that two people may 
have a happy future, many more than two have to break a chief link 
with a happy past. The common saying that the parents of the 
bride do not lose a daughter, but only gain a son, seldom wholly true, 
is never less true than in the case of a marriage with an Indian 
official. Here the parents lose their daughter, and the mere distance 
of her future home precludes them from feeling that they have, in 
any true sense of the word, gained a son. Such a marriage, there- 
fore, puts the unselfish love of the parents to the severest possible 
test. But it was a test which the Hamilton parents were able to 
stand ; and they would not allow, so far as they could help it, the 
shadow of a shade to rest upon their daughter's happiness. The day 
of the wedding was — for the Irish climate— a fine one, and John 
Lawrence and his wife have often laughed together since over the 
rapid come-down which they underwent — the start in a carriage and 


four, amidst the cheering and shouting and loving wishes that followed 
then ; while, on the second day, the carriage and four was reduced to 
a carriage and pair j and that, again, on the third day, to a jaunting- 
car and single horse ! 

To the unique and lifelong happiness of the union thus cemented, 
the whole course of this biography will bear witness, direct or indirect. 
I will quote here two testimonies only, and both shall be those of 
John Lawrence himself — the one conscious and deliberate, the other 
wholly unpremeditated and almost unconscious. In the fragment of 
the autobiography which I have so often quoted, and which was 
written, as I gather, about thirty years later, towards the close of his 
Viceroyalty, he writes: 'In August 1841 I took perhaps the most 
important, and certainly the happiest, step in my life — in getting 
married. My wife has been to me everything that a man could wish 
or hope for.' 

The other testimony is still more to the point, because, as I have 
said, it is unconscious and, in its neatness and its intensity, is 
eminently characteristic of the man. John Lawrence was sitting, one 
evening, in his drawing-room at Southgate, with his wife, his sister 
Letitia,and other members of the family, and all of them were engaged 
in reading. Looking up from his book, in which he had been engrossed, 
he discovered, to his surprise, that his wife had left the room. 
' Where's mother ? ' said he to one of his daughters. ' She's upstairs,' 
replied the girl. He returned to his book, and, looking up again a 
few minutes later, put the same question to his daughter, and received 
the same answer. Once more he returned to his reading, and, once 
more, he looked up with the same question on his lips. His sister 
Letitia here broke in : ' Why, really, John, it would seem as if you 
could not get on for five minutes without your wife.' * That's why 
I married her,' replied he. 

The honeymoon was spent on the Continent. In a tour, which 
lasted from September 1841 to the following March, John Lawrence 
and his wife visited Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Italy. The 
birthday of the bride (November 14) was celebrated at Florence, 
and they reached Rome towards the close of the month. The morn- 
ings there were occupied in vigorous sight-seeing, and the evenings in 
as vigorous studies in Italian till the unhealthy climate produced the 
effect that might have been expected on a constitution which had not 
yet quite recovered from the still worse climate of India; and a letter 
of John Lawrence's to his friend Cumine speaks regretfully of his 


inability 'to enjoy life in a place where there was so much to see and 
and do as in Rome.' They were accompanied during a part of their 
tour by Mr. and Mrs. Hayes. ' The honeymoon is past,' says Letitia, 
writing to a friend, ' and I have not seen a frown on either brow. I 
find that my brother can love his wife, and his sister none the less.' 

The terrible news of the rising of the Afghan tribes on our de- 
moralised army at Cabul, and of his brother George's captivity and 
too probable death, reached John Lawrence at Naples, and must have 
brought something more than ' a frown ' to his brow. And in a letter, 
dashed off in the hottest haste to his sister-in-law, the wife of his 
brother Henry, he writes as follows. It will be observed that the want 
of grammar is appalling. But, as in the well-known letter written off 
by the Duke of Marlborough to his wife after the battle of Blenheim, 
where spelling and grammar were, naturally enough, thrown to the 
winds, these signs of excitement add something to its historical in- 
terest. It is the first letter in which he alludes to Afghanistan — a 
subject which was seldom afterwards to be long absent from his mind 
— whether he was following in spirit, a few weeks later, from England 
the march of the ' army of vengeance ; ' whether, as chief ruler of the 
Punjab, he was primarily responsible for the safety of that most diffi- 
cult, and perhaps 'unscientific,' but certainly, under his care, well- 
defended frontier ; whether, as Governor-General, he was taking 
precautions to avoid all entanglement with its internal politics ; or 
whether, once more, he was protesting, as he did protest with his latest 
breath, against a policy which — whether he was right or wrong — he 
thought to be impolitic and unjust, certain to involve calamities like 
those of which he had heard, thirty years before, when he was at 
Naples, and dangerous to the security of our whole Indian empire. 
The letter, therefore, is interesting alike from a psychological and 
from a historical point of view, and I give it without any attempt to 
improve its grammar or punctuation. The sense is generally clear 

Naples : March 23, 1842. 
My dear Honoria, I hardly know how to wrile to you the last mail 
has brought us such dreadful accounts the death of SirWm.[Macnaghten] 
poor George's imprisonment and probable death and the reported destruc- 
tion of the whole Cabul army. Is certainly an amount of dreadful which 
has seldom come from India certainly never in my mind. The papers 
seem to think that neither George's nor MacKenzie's life were safe, I 
think that as they did not kill them at the moment of seizure they will 


spare their lives to exchange for their own prisoners. We are all here 
prepared for the worst, tho' as long as there is life there is hope. It 
seems that the whole business was dreadfully mismanaged — the allowing 
the supplies to be in a place where they could be cut off— the dividing 
the force ; with a river without Bridge between them and lastly the con- 
suming and wasting the morale of the force in desultory attacks, instead 
of attacking them at once. Altogether shows a want of management. 
I trust that the rumours of the force being attacked and destroyed sub- 
sequent to their evacuation will not prove true. It would seem to me to 
have been most feasible to have retreated through the open country to 
Ghuzni You may fancy our anxiety for news. The general feeling pre- 
vious to this disaster was that the sooner we get out of Afghanistan the 
better and Lord Ellenborough was said to have gone out with these 
views. I do not think now that we can leave the country without wiping 
off our disgrace — however enough of this. I propose leaving Naples on 
the 28th if the weather is fine for Marseilles by steam and thence to Paris 
where I shall be two days, and then to England. I am anxious to be 
there to look after Charlie and her chicks in the event of poor George's 
being no more. I heard from Mr. S. a couple of days ago it seemed 
they had not then told her of the dreadful news — should George be gone 
I am his executor . . . what you do pray write to me as Henry will have 
little time for such things pray keep him out of Afghanistan if you can 
help it. I wish I was back in India all my thoughts and feelings are 
there. I am heartily tired of Italy. Letitia and Mr. Hayes travel back 
by land and probably will not be in England before June. They say 
eleven thousand troops are to be sent out to India though what is wanted 
with so many I don't see except with China. I don't think we have seen 
the last of that business — it seems quite interminable. This letter goes 
direct to Naples in the consul's bag. I wrote two or three by that route. 
Mind and write any particulars which transpire about George. I still live 
in hope that he may survive. 

Yours ever affectionately, 


On the same day and across the same sheet of paper, his sister 
Letitia writes in similar, but naturally more vehement, strains of 

' The calamities of India have at last opened upon our family, 
and one of the best and least selfish is the first victim. The vial is 
opened, but when and where will it close ? I get up in the morning 
with fresh hope after communion with our abiding and unchanging 
Guide and Surety, but, throughout the day, the feeble heart sinks, and 
all seems the blackness of despair.' Then, fearing that her other 


brother Henry's turn would come next, she turns in an agony of grief 
to him, implores him to return to England, telling him that he will be 
sure to find work to do at home, and that all her own and her hus- 
band's property would be willingly shared with him and his. ' So 
come back, beloved ones, come back ; our poor mother ! I cannot 
bear to think of her. I know the manner of her grief. As to the 
poor wife, what can be said for so huge a sorrow ? ' 

And so the honeymoon ended, as it did for so many others, in 
that sad year, in sore anxiety, in sickening fears and almost more 
sickening hopes — for they were to be hopes long deferred — among 
all the branches of the Lawrence family. John Lawrence and his 
wife hurried back to London to be ready, in case their worst fears 
should prove true, to take charge of the widow and her children. 
But here he was seized with a long and dangerous illness which made 
his doctors tell him that he must give up all idea of returning to 
India. This was serious news enough, for his leave was drawing to 
a close. There was no apparent opening for him in England, and 
it was necessary to come to a decision at once. With his intense 
interest in his work in India, it did not probably cost him much to 
say that, whatever the risk might be, he was resolved to run it. ' If I 
can't live in India,' was his characteristic remark, ' I must go and die 
there. ' 

On his partial recovery, he went over to Ireland for a change, and 
paid a farewell visit to his wife's relations. He spent September at 
Clifton with his aged mother, whose heart was gladdened by the sight 
of ' nine of her children, and ten of her grandchildren ' assembled 
around her, and he sailed from Southampton for India, by the Overland 
Route, on October 1, 1842. It was the last meeting, as neither of 
them could have failed to anticipate, between the mother and the 
son ; but the pang of parting was lessened, at least to her motherly 
heart, by the knowledge that he was not returning to India alone. 
'To see you happily married,' she had written to him while he 
was at Etawa in June 1839, 'will gladden my old heart ere I quit 
life ;' and, on the day before his marriage (on August 25, 1841), she 
had thus poured out her feelings in a letter to her son Henry : ' I 
cannot express how rejoiced I am that he [John] will, please God, take 
out with him an honest Irish lass from among his relatives, and so well 
known to them all. Marcia's account of her, will, I am sure, bear the 
test. I wish I could say what I think of her from my own experience, 
but the knowledge of his happiness is enough for me.' The opportunity 

VOL. I. K 


for forming her own judgment in the important matter had now come 
and gone, and had convinced her that her son was not only as happy 
as he could be, but that he had the best of grounds for being so. 

And so John Lawrence went out a second time from England to 
India ; still almost unnoticed and unknown ; his great capacities still 
unrecognised, and his brilliant future still not anticipated, even by his 
most intimate friends and relations, and he himself not a little anxious 
— and, as the result showed, not without reason — as to the occasion 
which India might now have for his services. He was to return to 
England, twenty years later, the observed of all observers, with his 
name a household word in India and in England, and with a whole 
people, whose best characteristics he so well combined, nocking from 
all parts to welcome him, and happy if they could catch but a sight of 
the grand and now familiar features of the ruler of the Punjab and 
the man who had done more than any other single man to save 
our Indian Empire. 




During the three years' absence of John Lawrence in England, the 
gloomiest and most disgraceful chapter of Anglo-Indian history — it 
may almost be said of the whole course of English history — had been 
brought to its close. 

The story of the Afghan war is a thrice-told tale, and its moral, 
it is to be hoped, is graven with a pen of iron on the tablets of the 
nation's heart. With its design and progress John Lawrence had, of 
course, nothing to do. At first sight, therefore, it would seem to lie 
beyond the field, already sufficiently vast, of his biography. But, 
though he exercised no influence on the Afghan war, it exercised so 
profound an influence on him ; it helped to give so decided a bent 
to the whole of his subsequent administration, whether as Chief 
Commissioner of the Punjab, or as Governor-General of India ; it 
has so dominated the foreign policy of eight successive Governors- 
General during a period of some thirty-five years — that it is essential 
to a right understanding alike of John Lawrence himself, of his 
actions, and of his time, to indicate, in bare outline, the general 
causes and the successive steps which prepared the way for the cata- 

The story is thrilling and yet monotonous — thrilling, for the ruin 
was so terrible and so complete ; monotonous, for there is no single 
step from first to last upon which folly, or worse than folly, has not 
placed its ineffaceable stamp. A fatal infatuation, to which the pen 
of the greatest of the Greek tragedians could, perhaps, alone have 
done justice, seems to clog the steps of those whom God has deter- 
mined to destroy, and has therefore first deprived of their senses. 
The Indian career of Lord Auckland began with the first, and ended 
with the last, act of this prolonged and gloomy drama. 

The immediate cause of a state of things which seemed to call 



for the coolest deliberation and the most straightforward policy on the 
part of English statesmen, but served instead to deprive them, for the 
time, alike of their senses and of their consciences, was the rapid pro- 
gress of Russia. What was the nature and extent of that progress ? 
Nobody who studies the subject seriously will deny that it was rapid 
and startling enough. On the side of Europe, within a period of 
some fifty years, Finland had been conquered, the Turkish Empire 
had been overrun and deprived of some of its fairest provinces, and 
the partition of Poland, that crowning iniquity of modern times, had 
been planned and carried out. On the side of Asia, Russia had 
spread southwards from Siberia, over the vast steppes traversed by the 
wandering Kirghis, till she had planted her forts on the Jaxartes, had 
looked wistfully towards the Oxus, and had begun to threaten the 
independence even of the three ' independent ' khanates of Khiva, 
Bokhara, and Khokand. More formidable even than this, she had 
conquered the northern provinces of Persia, and had made that 
empire a mere puppet in her hands. The repeated embassies and 
subsidies and promises of the British to the Persian Court — promises, 
it must be added, which were evaded in a rather questionable manner 
when the pinch came— had failed to secure an alliance between Persia 
and England, and the advance, therefore, of the Persians on the semi- 
independent principality of Herat, which was then, as now, one of the 
pivots of the Eastern problem, might, not unreasonably, be regarded 
by English statesmen as the advance of the Russians themselves 
against the one country which still lay between them and the Indus. 
Here was a great fact or series of facts, a danger or series of dangers, 
with which English statesmanship had to grapple. 

There was, as I have said, but one country between Persia and 
India. But its character and that of its inhabitants seemed likely to 
make it, with decent management, the very best and most sufficient of 
barriers against any further hostile advance of the Russians. It was 
a barren, mountainous, inaccessible region, inhabited by people as wild, 
as poor, and as savage as the country in which they lived. They were 
split up into innumerable tribes, each fiercely attached to its inde- 
pendence and to the right of cutting at pleasure its neighbours' 
throats, but capable, as their history showed, of being united, from 
time to time, into a loose confederacy by one of those brilliant leaders, 
half-religious and half-military, such as Islam, even in its apparent 
decadence, seems capable, at pleasure, of bringing to the front. This 
loose confederacy generally disappeared with the disappearance of 

1838-42 THE FIRST AFGHAN WAR. 133 

the genius who had created it ; and there were two motives, and 
only two, which seemed capable of welding the scattered members 
into a compact union of the whole country — hatred of the foreigner, 
and fear of a foreign invasion. 'We are content,' so said an old 
Afghan chief to Mountstuart Elphinstone, ' with discord, we are con- 
tent with alarms, we are content with blood ; but we will never be 
content with a master.' 

There was seated on the throne of Cabul, in the year 1837, Dost 
Mohammed, a man of genius, and one whose name will often recur 
in this biography. A usurper he may have been, according to 
European ideas ; but in a country like Afghanistan such a man might 
fairly claim to be his own ancestry, and, as Eastern notions go, he 
was a wise and just ruler. Here, then, was the very man for our 
purpose, all ready to our hands. How did we deal with him ? 

We accredited an envoy, Alexander Burnes by name, to his 
Court. He was one of the most adventurous and successful of our 
Eastern explorers, and he soon discovered that the Afghan sovereign 
was anxious to form an alliance with us, and to reject all proposals for 
the counter-alliance which Persian and Russian agents had been 
pressing upon him. He assured his employers of his belief in the 
Dost's sincerity and pressed them to accept his proffered friendship 
as the best security against more serious dangers beyond. But this 
was too obvious and straightforward a course for men whom a reli- 
gious Greek would have represented as blinded by the Goddess of 
Bane, and urged resistlessly onward towards their ruin. The man 
who was anxious to be our friend must be treated as an enemy. The 
sovereign chosen by the Afghans must be driven from his throne, and 
a feeble pretender, whom the Afghans had expelled, and who was 
living as a pensioner on our bounty, must be put in his place by force 
of arms. The question of right or wrong seems never to have oc 
curred to the astute diplomatists who elaborated so foolish a policy. 
And when Alexander Burnes had fallen, the first victim of the policy 
which he had disapproved, and when our calamities did compel 
people at home to raise the embarrassing question of right or wrong, 
the despatches which had long been demanded by an indignant 
country were, from motives of State policy, published only with im- 
portant omissions ; the result being that Burnes, when he could no 
longer speak for himself, was represented as having recommended as 
politic and just a course of action which he had always condemned as 
impolitic and unjust. 


But, meanwhile, Shah Soojah was fished by us out of his retire- 
ment ; we formed an alliance with him and with the Sikhs, the here- 
ditary enemies of the Afghans ; an English army surmounted the 
dangers of the passes, drove Dost Mohammed, after a brave resist- 
ance, into exile, and, with the loss of some 70,000 camels — the life- 
blood, it should be remembered, of the countries from which they 
had been collected — succeeded in placing our puppet on the throne. 
Rewards were distributed by the English authorities with a liberal 
hand ; the successful general, Sir John Keane, hastened home with 
his success and with a peerage ; a large part of our army was re- 
called to India, and the remainder stayed behind simply to ensure 
the ' benefits which we had conferred upon a reluctant people ! ' 

It was the story of Regulus in Africa over again. The blind 
feeling of security at home engendered by successes which had been 
unexpectedly rapid, was the same in each case. The infatuation of 
the generals in command was the same. The Roman general wrote 
back word to Rome that he had 'sealed up the gates of Carthage 
with terror ; ' and, as he dictated terms of peace which were in- 
tolerable to a prostrate but high-spirited foe, told them roughly 
that 'men who were good for anything should either conquer or 
submit to their betters.' The English general boasted that 'Afghan- 
istan was as tranquil as Wales,' at the very moment when he was 
staying behind to bolster up a ruler whom he knew to be detested by 
the whole Afghan nation. The fate of the invading armies was much 
the same. Only, in our case, the ruin was still more sudden, still 
more terrible, and still more complete ; and who will say that it was 
not still more deserved ? The genius of Horace has shed a halo of 
glory round the last days of Regulus ; but it would require more than 
the genius of Horace to shed a single gleam of light on the last days 
of Elphinstone or Shelton. It seems to be the fate of an Afghan war 
that its successes are only less melancholy, if indeed they are less 
melancholy, than its failures. 

Bella geri placuit nullos habitura triumphos. 

What followed the recall of our troops may be dismissed with 
almost equal brevity. At first, everything went ' merry as a marriage 
bell' Dost Mohammed, after many romantic adventures in Central 
Asia, returned at the head of a host of Uzbeks, to measure his sword 
with us, and, after an engagement in which, by his gallantry, he 
deserved the success which he obtained, surprised everybody by his 

1838-42 THE FIRST AFGHAN WAR. 135 

voluntary surrender. But it did not follow, because Dost Mohammed 
had been deposed and was safe in India, that therefore Shah Soojah 
sat safely on his throne. The announcement had hardly been made 
that ' Afghanistan was as tranquil as Wales ' when the first dull 
murmur of the rising torrent was heard. 'You may take Candahar 
and Ghuzni,' the Khan of Khelat had warned us at the very outset 
of the war : ' you may even take Cabul, but you cannot conquer the 
snows ; and when they fall, you will be able neither to maintain your 
army nor to withdraw it.' 'When your military difficulties are over 
your real difficulties will begin,' was the warning of a greater than the 
Khan of Khelat, and of one who might have claimed a hearing even 
from the President of the Board of Control and the Governor- General 
— the Duke of Wellington. In similar tones of warning had spoken 
all the most high-minded and the best-informed of our Indian ad- 
ministrators — Lord Wellesley, Mountstuart Elphinstone, Lord William 
Bentinck, and Sir Charles Metcalfe ; in similar tones spoke the 
Council of the Governor-General, when, at last, they heard the secret 
which had been carefully kept from them by their chief; in similar 
tones the Court of Directors at home ; but the warning fell upon 
deaf, because upon unwilling, ears. 

The expenses of the occupation were becoming unbearable, and 
yet everybody felt that it would be dishonourable to leave the puppet 
whom we had crowned to his certain fate, and Afghanistan to certain 
anarchy. So we lingered on a little longer and curtailed our expenses, 
by diminishing the subsidies hitherto paid to the wild tribes who held 
the gloomy passes which frowned between us and safety. Instantly 
they returned to their immemorial custom of plundering and slaying 
all passers by, and, in a moment, we were cut off from India. The 
river was now running level with its banks and was about to over- 
whelm us. But still Macnaghten, the Resident at the puppet's court, 
and still Elphinstone, the general in cdmmand of the troops, refused 
to take warning. The English troops who ought to have been in the 
citadel were quartered in ill-constructed cantonments, which lay at a 
distance from the city and were completely commanded by the sur- 
rounding mountains. The military stores were in a small fort at a 
distance from both cantonments and citadel. The royal treasure was 
in a similar fort in the middle of the city, as though to invite attack ; 
and within the Bala Hissar, or citadel, cowered the miserable monarch, 
making believe to stand upon his dignity and rule the country, while 
between him and his only possible protectors, the English army in its 


cantonments, seethed and surged the fanatical and infuriated mob of 
the most turbulent of cities. Worse than this, while in subordinate 
positions among our officers were some of the most intrepid spirits 
whom our Indian Empire has produced — Alexander Burnes, Vincent 
Eyre, William Broadfoot, Colin Mackenzie, George Lawrence, and 
Eldred Pottinger, any one of whom, had he been in command, might 
still have saved, or, at all events, would have deserved to save us 
— the chief authority was vested in General Elphinstone, a brave 
soldier, but a man wanting in decision, and now incapacitated doubly 
by old age and by a torturing disease ; while, next to him, came 
Brigadier-General Shelton, a far abler man, but cross-grained and 
petulant, utterly impracticable, hardly on speaking terms with his 
chief, and yet unable to act either with him or without him Every- 
thing and everybody, in fact, seemed to be exactly where they ought 
not to be, and this at the crisis of the fate of some 15,000 men ! 

Burnes, who was living in his own house in the city without an 
adequate guard, was the first victim. On November 2, an infuriated 
mob surrounded his house. He sent for aid to the cantonments. 
But no aid came, and, after a brave resistance, he was hacked to 
pieces in his own garden. The stores in the small fort were next 
attacked, and our troops stood looking on from their cantonments 
while the fort was stormed, and its contents, the only supplies which 
could keep them from starvation, were carried off. The arrival of 
Akbar Khan, the favourite son of Dost Mohammed, infused fresh 
spirit into the Afghans, while the want of energy and spirit shown by 
our chiefs spread paralysis among the English troops. Once and 
again, they refused to obey the word of command, and, once and 
again, they fled disgracefully from the field when victory seemed to 
be in their grasp. Starvation now began to stare them in the face. 
And there was nothing for it but to make the best terms they could 
for the evacuation of the country with their relentless foe. The game 
was in the hands of Akbar Khan ; and if the wolf was ever merciful 
to the lamb, then the Feringhis might hope for forbearance from the 
infuriated Ghilzais. 

In the struggle for life, Macnaghten, while he was negotiating with 
some of the Sirdars, was induced by the wily Akbar Khan to enter 
privately into other and inconsistent negotiations with him. It was 
a trap which was intended to demonstrate to the assembled Sirdars 
the faithlessness of the English, and it was successful. Macnaghten 
was lured to a conference, and, in the struggle which ensued, was 

1838-42 THE FIRST AFGHAN WAR. 137 

shot dead by Akbar Khan. His head was cut off, and his body 
paraded through the market of Cabul, while some 5,000 soldiers 
lingered within striking distance, not daring to raise a finger in his 
defence. There was more delay, more negotiations, more appeals 
for mercy. 'In friendship,' pleaded the suppliants, 'kindness and 
consideration are necessary, not overpowering the weak with suffer- 
ings.' It had come then to this ! A younger generation of English- 
men may need to be reminded that the weak were the English, and 
that the friendship appealed to was the friendship of the people whose 
country we had gratuitously invaded, and whose ruler we had deliber- 
ately dethroned. In vain, did Eldred Pottinger dwell on the faith- 
lessness of the enemy and on the succours that might yet be hoped 
for from Jellalabad. In vain, did he passionately appeal to the 
generals to allow their men to make one effort more to cut their way 
through the army, and die, if die they must, a soldier's death. The 
hope of life was stronger than any of his arguments ; and, at last, on 
December 24, the final agreement for the evacuation of the country 
was signed. All the guns but six, and all the remaining treasure, 
were to be given up ; Dost Mohammed was to be restored ; Shah 
Soojah was to make away with himself whither and how he liked \ 
Nott was to retire from Candahar and Sale from Jellalabad. On 
these terms the retreating army was to be supplied with provisions 
and to receive a safe-conduct as far as Jellalabad. 

It was several days before the treaty was ratified. Snow — the 
snow of which the Khan of Khelat had warned us — began to fall ; 
and on January 6, 4,500 fighting-men, and some 12,000 camp-followers, 
including many women and children, defiled out of the cantonments. 
As the last of these left the camp — and unfortunately it was not till 
late in the evening that they did so— the infuriated and triumphant 
Afghans rushed in and set fire to the abandoned tents, while the re- 
treating army wound slowly on towards the fearful gorge of the Khurd 
Cabul. The snow lay thick upon the ground ; and upon the snow, 
without food or fuel or shelter of any kind, there bivouacked for two 
nights in succession, in that pitiless climate, the motley and ill-fated 
host composed of dusky troops drawn from the sun-scorched plains 
of India, of Englishmen and Englishwomen and babes at the breast. 
The camp-followers, who brought up the rear of our army, had been 
the first to feel the attacks of the pursuing Ghilzais ; but when, on 
the third day, the foremost columns began to enter the fatal defile, 
they too fell fast and thick beneath the fire of an enemy whom they 


could feel and hear, but could not see. Every rock concealed an 
Afghan marksman, and every one who lagged behind or who dropped 
exhausted on the road was immediately hacked to pieces by Afghan 
knives. Agreement after agreement was made with Akbar Khan, 
who hung like a bird of evil omen on our skirts, and concession after 
concession was wrung from us. First, the subordinate officers, who 
might have done most to sustain the shrinking spirits of the men and, 
perhaps, might have saved them altogether — Lawrence, Mackenzie, 
and Pottinger — were given up as hostages ; next came the women 
and children ; and, last of all, those whom we could best spare, the 
officers in command — Elphinstone and Shelton. 

Lured by the scent of human carnage, and drunk with the blood 
which they had already gorged, the Ghilzai vultures were not likely, 
in deference to any stipulations made with Akbar Khan, to spare the 
prey that was in their power ; and Akbar himself, who might, perhaps, 
have done something to restrain their fury, was already off with his 
precious burden of English ladies and generals towards the Hindu 
Kush. The retreat had long since become a rout, and the army a 
rabble. The scanty supply of food was gone, and now the ammunition 
began to fail also. The last desperate stand was made at Gunda- 
muck, a name of ill-omen, not wiped out by the treaty which, twenty- 
seven years later, has been called after it ; and on January 15, there 
was espied from the ramparts of Jellalabad, riding on a jaded pony, 
which itself seemed but half alive, a single man, half dead with agony 
of mind and body, exhausted by want of food, by loss of blood, and 
by fatigue — the one solitary survivor of the 15,000 men who had left 
Cabul ten days before. Never, surely, in the whole course of history 
has wrong-doing been more terribly and more deservedly avenged. 
The one consolation — if indeed it can now be called a consolation — 
was that we had learned a lesson which we could never need to be 
taught again. 

The evil genius of Lord Auckland, who retired, broken-down, to 
England, seemed to rest, for the time, even on the energy and 
courage of his successor. Lord Ellenborough was a man of great 
ability, and no mean orator. But his genius was erratic and his de- 
spatches were often merely grandiose. He was the victim of his own 
itching ears ; and his judgment, his candour, and his caution were 
often sacrificed to the turn of a sentence, or the rhythm of a perora- 
tion. He was always in extremes; and after a chivalrous proclamation, 
in which, by candidly avowing our mistakes and wrong-doings, and 

1838-42 THE FIRST AFGHAN WAR. 139 

setting forth the principles of our policy for the future, he had evoked 
a warm response from one end of India to the other, he straightway 
turned the admiration he had excited into disgust and indignation, by 
the order, again and again repeated, to Pollock and Nott at once to 
withdraw from Afghanistan, leaving the prisoners — our brave officers 
and their helpless wives and children — to their fate ! But the passive 
resistance, and ingenious inability of Nott and Pollock to do what they 
were bidden, put off the evil day, and, at last, brought them the 
famous permission to ' retire ' from Jellalabad and Candahar, should 
they think it advisable, ' by way of Cabul ! ' The permission was 
greedily seized by the generals ; the capital was occupied by the army 
of vengeance, and, thanks to the generous exertions of our officers, 
less summary punishment was inflicted on the inhabitants than might 
have been expected from the excited feelings of our soldiery. The 
Bala Hissar was blown up ; the great bazaar in which Macnaghten's 
body had been exposed to insult was destroyed, together with the 
adjacent mosque ; the shops of the possibly guilty Afghans, and 
certainly innocent Hindus, were given up to loot ; the prisoners who 
had been sent off to a living death in Turkestan returned, as by a series 
of miracles, from the heights of the Hindu Kush, and, literally, 
dropped into our hands ; and, finally, the sandal-wood gates, as they 
were then believed to be, of Somnath, were brought back in triumph 
from Ghuzni ; while the bewildered natives of India were congratu- 
lated by the Governor-General — the Mohammedans on the recapture 
by Christians of what a Mohammedan conqueror had taken away, and 
the Hindus on the restoration to a temple which had long ceased even 
to be remembered, of a trophy which was destined to find a fit resting- 
place at last, not in the restored temple of Somnath, but in the 
armoury of the Government fort at Agra ! This proclamation was 
greeted with an outburst of derision both in England and in India : 
and so, according to approved precedents, the most prolonged tragedy 
through which the Indian Government had ever passed ended in a 
tragi-comedy, if not in a downright farce. 

On October 1, 1838, Lord Auckland had put forth from Simla the 
famous State paper which, astounding in the audacity and reckless- 
ness of its assertions, had declared his objects in the invasion of 
Afghanistan ; and now, by a coincidence which was anything but un- 
designed, exactly four years later, on October 1, 1842, Lord Ellen- 
borough, who always aimed at theatrical effects, from the very same 


place, and the very same room, wrote a manifesto which declared 

disasters unparalleled in their extent, unless by the errors in which they 
were originated, and by the treachery by which they were completed, 
had in one short campaign been avenged upon every scene of past mis- 
fortune ; that to force a sovereign upon a reluctant people was as in- 
consistent with the policy as it was with the principles of the British 
Government, tending to place the armies and resources of that people at 
the disposal of the first invader, and to impose the burden of supporting 
a sovereign without the prospect of benefit from his alliance ; finally, that 
the Government of India, content with the limits nature appeared to 
have assigned to its empire, would henceforward devote all its efforts to 
the establishment and maintenance of general peace, to the protection 
of the sovereigns and chiefs its allies, and to the prosperity and happiness 
of its own faithful subjects ; that the rivers of the Punjab and the Indus, 
and the mountainous passes and the barbarous tribes of Afghanistan would 
be placed between the British army and an enemy approaching from the 
West, and no longer between the armies and its supplies. 

Meanwhile, on the very day on which Lord Ellenborough wrote 
his famous proclamation, there started from England, on his return 
voyage to India, the young Bengal civilian, as yet, little known to fame, 
who, the very opposite to Lord Ellenborough in all respects, simple 
as a child in word, in deed, and in thought, was destined to carry out 
into act, and with the happiest results to all concerned, the wise and 
noble policy therein foreshadowed. And so, from this long but, as it 
appears to me, not unnecessary, digression on the first Afghan war, 
to John Lawrence, the consistent and indomitable opponent of all 
future Afghan wars, except for purposes of bond-fide self-defence, I 
now return. 




After the usual roughing of the Overland Route and the formation 
of several shipboard friendships, one of which, unlike most shipboard 
friendships — that with Seton-Karr — proved lasting, John Lawrence and 
his wife arrived at Bombay on November 14, 1842. It was a place new 
to him as to her ; and after ten days of sight-seeing in that bustling 
Babel of races and languages, finding that a war had broken out in 
Bundelcund, the direct route to the North-West Provinces, they 
determined to take the much longer and more difficult route through 
the then little-known Central Provinces to Allahabad, It was a 
journey adventurous for a man, but doubly adventurous for a woman, 
whose first experience of India had been a violent attack of cholera, 
from which, under her husband's careful nursing, she was just re- 
covering. Travelling in India was, at that time, slow work under the 
best of circumstances ; for there were no railways, no public convey- 
ances, few serais, and few roads, or even tracks. But this journey 
was exceptionally rough and difficult even for India. No sooner had 
the cool air and delightful scenery of the Ghauts been left behind, 
than John Lawrence was himself attacked with symptoms of the same 
terrible disease. 'We were thus/ writes Lady Lawrence, ' about as 
helpless a pair of travellers in a strange land as could well be found ; 
but we were young and not easily frightened, and, as my husband 
knew what to do on the first appearance of illness, the alarming 
symptoms did not increase, and he was soon quite well again.' 

At Poona, they stopped, for a few days, in the house of Sir 
Charles Napier, who was in command there, but happened to be 
absent on a tour of inspection. From Aurungabad, their next halting- 
place, to Nagpore, a distance of three hundred miles, their journey 
lay through a wild country with a very sparse population, and with 
no facilities at all for travelling. As far as Ellichpore, they went by 


dawk, that is, in palanquins with relays of bearers. But here their 
progress was stopped, for there was no regular dawk, and it was with 
much difficulty that John Lawrence managed to engage a set of forty 
bearers to carry them thence to Nagpore. Their plan of travelling 
was to start between three and four p.m. and push on till late at night, 
when they stopped near a village, arranged for their food, and made 
up their beds, of course in their palanquins. After a few hours' sleep 
they were off again and pressed on till the sun obliged them to stop. 

It was seldom during this wild journey that they came even upon 
a traveller's bungalow. Having only one servant, they had to do 
almost everything for themselves. The wiry collector, in addition to 
keeping his forty bearers in order — a task for which his early life at 
Paniput had well qualified him — had often, himself, to act the part of 
purveyor and of cook ; in other words, he had to find and to cook 
the lamb, the goat, or the pair of fowls which was to keep them alive ; 
and, as he used to relate, many were the shifts and the turns to which 
he had recourse to conceal the disagreeable preparations for their 
rough-and-ready meal from his young and tender-hearted wife. 

On the last day of the year they arrived at Nagpore, much to the 
astonishment of the Englishmen whom they found there. And here 
more serious troubles came upon John Lawrence, for every one told 
him that his chance of obtaining employment was very slight. The 
1 army of vengeance ' troops had just returned from Afghanistan, and 
a brilliant, but, under the circumstances, a very ill-timed and childish 
pageant had been elaborated by Lord Ellenborough for their reception 
at Ferozepore, then our chief station on the Sikh frontier, and a place, 
as the readers of 'Sir Henry Lawrence's Life' 1 know, which was 
almost the creation of his energy and zeal. There were painted ele- 
phants in vast numbers, there were triumphal arches, there was the 
waving of banners, there was the roar of artillery — altogether a fine 
show, but, to those who reflected on what had happened, a sorry 
sight. One ingredient of the pageant was happily conspicuous by its 
absence. It had been intended by Lord Ellenborough, in the very 
worst spirit of Roman pride, that the captive monarch whom we had 
driven from his throne, and were now driven to replace upon it, should 
grace with his presence the triumphal procession. But better counsels 
prevailed, and he and we were spared this crowning humiliation. 

There was no one in India who did not rejoice that we were quit 

1 Vol. i. p. 206. 

1842-46 FIRST SIKH WAR. 143 

of Afghanistan — the scene of our success and of our shame — on 
almost any terms. A feeling of mixed excitement and depression 
pervaded the country. There was plenty to be done, but there were 
too many hands to do it. Every one seemed to be out of work, and 
John Lawrence wrote, in some anxiety, from Nagpore, to report his 
arrival to the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces. 
He wrote privately, at the same time, to his immediate superior and 
friend, Robert Hamilton, Commissioner of Agra, begging him to press 
his claims for an appointment. Meanwhile, he pushed on to Alla- 
habad, where he was hospitably entertained by Frederick Currie, who 
was, in after years, to be brought into such close contact with him in 
high official posts. Here he bought his first pair of horses. It was 
a characteristic purchase enough ; for he used often to tell, with 
something, perhaps, of shame, but more of amusement or of pride, how, 
as I have related already, in earlier days at Paniput, he had been so 
taken by the beauty of a splendid Arab that he had spent his last 
penny in buying him. It was on Chanda's back that, for many years 
afterwards, he had done some of the very best of his work : his 
1 cutcherry on horseback ; ' his pursuit of great criminals ; his morning 
and evening canters, varied sometimes by the healthful and exciting 
chase, albeit he was all alone, of the hyena or the wolf or the wild boar. 

At Cawnpore, he spent a month in the house of Richard, the 
youngest of the Lawrence brotherhood, who was just then employed in 
raising troops there. It was a pleasant breathing-space before the more 
public and responsible portion of his life began. But, anxious about 
the future, and eager to be at work again, he chafed at the want of 
employment. He had already purchased what was, in his eyes, the 
first necessity of life — a pair of horses — and now he furnished himself 
with what was only less necessary — a second pair ! — and then, after 
buying a buggy, a stock of tents, and stores of various kinds, and en- 
gaging servants for the future housekeeping, he started forth again, 
like the patriarch of old, with his long caravan of followers, not knowing 
which way he was to go, or where he should find rest, or work. 

It was his wife's first experience of camp life, and very enjoyable 
she found it. The usual plan was to send the tents in advance some 
ten or twelve miles, and then to drive that distance in the buggy, 
arriving in time for breakfast ; and then they would spend the heat 
of the day in reading, writing, and conversation. At Agra, their tents 
were pitched just outside the gardens of the Taj Mehal, so that they 
had every opportunity of observing that matchless building — 'the 

144 LIFE OF LORD LA WRENCE. 1842-46 

delight and the despair ' of the architects of the world, in the early- 
morning, in the full blaze of the midday sun, and by the softer light 
oi the moon. This visit was especially recalled to the mind of one 
at least of the party when, more than twenty years afterwards, they 
were there, once again, in all the pomp and splendour of the Vice- 
regal court. ' Great as was then/ writes Lady Lawrence, * my joy and 
thankful pride in my husband, it could not be greater than the delight 
of those early days, when the world seemed all before us, and the 
reality of life had yet hardly touched me, and I lived only in the 
present happiness.' On one of their easy marches thence a striking 
domestic incident occurred. John Lawrence and his wife were 
driving, one day, towards their tents, when they saw a large encamp- 
ment near the road, from which, to their indescribable surprise and 
delight, emerged their brother George, who had just returned from 
his long captivity in Afghanistan, and was still dressed as an Afghan. 
What a family meeting ! and what an outpouring of hearts there must 
have been ! The incidents of the victorious advance to Cabul, and 
the disastrous retreat from it ; the captivity, the chivalrous self-sacri- 
fice, and the escape, as from a living death, of the elder ; the hopes 
deferred, the news from the distant home, always welcome in a foreign 
land, but, perhaps, never so welcome as now, brought direct from 
England by the younger brother ! What thrilling stories George 
Lawrence must have had to tell during the one day that he was able 
to march with John, those who have read his account of ' Forty Years 
in India,' know well. But, perhaps, no story was so thrilling as one 
which is not, I think, contained in it, and which, just as I heard it 
from his own lips, may find a place here. 

One day, while George Lawrence, Eldred Pottinger, and the other 
captives were sitting together at one end of the room in which they 
were confined, Akbar Khan — the man who had slain Macnaghten 
with his own hand, and had made the treacherous compacts with our 
demoralised troops — came in, with other leading Sirdars, and proceeded 
to hold high and animated debate at the other end of the room. 
Pottinger, the only one of the hostages who understood Pushtu, 
moved towards them and listened attentively. At last he rejoined 
his own party and said to George Lawrence, ' Do you know what they 
are discussing ? ' ' No,' replied Lawrence. ' Well,' said Pottinger 
quietly, ' only whether it is better for their own interests to kill us 
here and now, or to keep us alive : at present the majority are for 
killing us.' 'You had better go back,' replied Lawrence with equal 

1842-46 FIRST SIKH WAR. 145 

self-command : ' see how the debate goes, and then come and let us 
know. Pottinger did so, and when the ' great consult ' was over, he 
returned, saying : ' The majority are now the other way, and we are 
not to be killed at present' After this, the prisoners were well treated, 
but it was not the first time that their lives had been in imminent 
danger. It had been seriously proposed on a previous occasion that 
each Sirdar should kill one captive with his own hands, thus placing 
all alike beyond the pale of British forgiveness ; and it was owing, 
probably, not so much to the clemency, as to the enlightened self- 
interest of Akbar Khan that their lives had, on each occasion, been 

On parting with his brother, George asked him casually whither 
he was going. ' To Meerut, replied John. ' Why are you going to 
a place where you are not known ? ' rejoined his brother. ' Go to 
Delhi, where you are known : you are sure to get work there.' The 
advice was taken, and while he was on his way thither he heard, to 
his delight, that, on the Commissioner of Agra's recommendation, 
he had been appointed to the post of Civil and Sessions Judge at 
Delhi, though only for the period of one month. Thus John Lawrence 
found himself beginning work, once more, at the scene of his earliest 
Indian labours. And it is not to be wondered at, looking at the 
important influence which this return on his own footsteps had on the 
whole of his subsequent career, and considering also what a career it 
was, that I have found that more than one person has been anxious 
to claim a share of the credit of sending him back there. In any 
case, years afterwards John Lawrence wrote to Hamilton : 'Your 
sending me to Delhi in 1843 was the making of me, and I can never 
forget it.' And those cynical people who are ready to think that 
gratitude may be best defined as ' a lively anticipation of favours to 
come ' may be interested to know that such, at all events, was not 
John Lawrence's gratitude ; for, years afterwards again, when the 
Chief Commissioner 01 the Punjab had returned to England, and 
had become a member of the Indian Council, he wrote to Sir Robert 
Hamilton m warm recollection of this long bygone service, and offered 
him his first nomination for his son. 'It is a great trait in his 
character,' says Sir Robert ; and few will deny that it was so. 

There were no more easy marches now. John Lawrence and his 
wife hurried on to Delhi, and, during their month's stay there, were 
hospitably entertained by Thomas Metcalfe, the Commissioner, 
brother-in-law to George Lawrence, and an old friend of John, who, 

vol. 1. L 


eight years before, had assisted him in bringing to justice the mur- 
derers of William Fraser, his predecessor in his high office. John 
Lawrence was delighted to be at work again in the place which he 
knew and loved so well ; and, by the end of the month, he received 
another acting appointment in the Delhi district, not far from the 
scene of his old labours at Paniput. His headquarters were to be at 
Kurnal, which he had known before only as a large military canton- 
ment ; and the prospect of settling down quietly, even for the short 
period of six months, was pleasant enough. 

But this was not to be just yet, for disturbances had broken out 
in the neighbouring state of Khytul. Its Raja having died without 
an heir, the English Government found it convenient to declare that 
the territory had lapsed to them. But the retainers of the palace, 
thinking, as well they might, that they had at least as good a right to 
the palace spoils as the English, stimulated the native troops to resist 
the transfer, and attacked and overpowered the small force which was 
sent to take it over. The ungrateful duty of suppressing this dis- 
turbance fell upon Henry Lawrence, who after his exhausting labours, 
under Mackeson, at Peshawur in pushing on supplies for Pollock's 
army of retribution, had recently come back to civil work at Umballa. 
He was opposed, on principle, to the annexation of native states. 
The work therefore was little to his liking, but he had no choice in 
the matter. He hurried over to Kurnal for reinforcements, which 
were supplied by his brother John in conjunction with the military 
authorities, and John, delighted to see his brother, and perhaps also 
— like David, as Eliab thought — still more delighted to see a little 
fighting, accompanied the force to the scene of action. The resist- 
ance of the enemy was trifling enough, but it was a work of more 
difficulty to keep order among the British troops, some of whom 
actually plundered the treasures which they had been sent to guard. 

But I am fortunately able to describe the scene in the graphic 
words of an eye-witness, my friend, Colonel Henry Yule. 

The family of the Khytul Raja had refused to give up the place to the 
native force sent to receive it. My friend and chief, Sir William Baker, 
then Captain and Superintendent of Canals, was ordered out to give 
engineering help if needed, and I with him. We met the troops retiring 
discomfited with some loss. So we had to wait till a considerable force 
assembled and advanced to Khytul. The fort was found abandoned, and 
a strange scene of confusion — all the paraphernalia and accumulations of 
odds and ends of a wealthy native family lying about and inviting loot. 

1842-46 FIRST SIKH WAR. 147 

I remember one beautiful crutch-stick of ebony with two rams' heads in 
jade. I took it and sent it in to the political authority, intending to buy it 
when sold. There was a sale, but my crutch never appeared ! Somebody 
had a more developed taste in jade. I remember an Irish officer, rum- 
maging a box, found a book in some native language, with a title-page in 
English that he could read — after his fashion— for he called out to me, 
* It's the Epistel to Powle. I read it on the frontispiece ! ' On this 
occasion I first saw four distinguished men — Sir George Clerk, Henry 
Lawrence, R. Napier, and John Lawrence. With the first three I made 
acquaintance, the last I only saw. But he must have, even then, been 
a man of mark in some way, from the way he was pointed out to me. 

Amid the general rummage that was going on, an officer of British 
infantry had been put over a part of the palace supposed to contain 
treasure, and they — officer and all — were helping themselves. Henry 
Lawrence was one of the Politicals under (Sir) George Clerk. When the 
news of this affair came to him I was present. It was in a white marble 
loggia in the palace, where there was a white marble chair, or throne, on 
a basement. Lawrence was sitting on this throne in great excitement. 
He wore an Afghan choga, a sort of dressing-gown garment, and this, and 
his thin locks and thin goat's beard, were streaming in the wind. He 
always dwells in my memory as a sort of pythoness on her tripod under 
the afflatus ! 

It need hardly be added that Henry Lawrence took good care to 
bring the offenders to justice, and then, with all the energy of his 
nature, he set to work to reorganise the administration and settle the 
revenue of the little state. John Lawrence, meanwhile, returned to 
Kurnal, and here a domestic event of importance occurred, for on 
June 10, 1843, at the verv hottest season, his eldest child, Kate, was 
born. John's office was in his own house, a privilege rare enough in 
Indian official life ; and his only complaint was that, owing to the 
epidemic which was raging in the surrounding district, he could get 
nobody to do any work. 

In October, when the court of the Governor- General broke up from 
Simla, and began to move towards Calcutta, John Lawrence's house, 
being the only inhabited one in the cantonment, was the halting-place 
of many high officials, with a sprinkling of old friends among them ; 
and on November 6, his brother Henry and his wife arrived on their 
way to Nepal. * Here was another happy family meeting. It was the 
first time that the wives had met since they had played together as 
young girls in the north of Ireland, and each had now the satisfaction 
of judging for herself of the choice the other had made and of 

148 LIFE OF LORD LA WRENCE. 1842-46 

witnessing the help, the sympathy, and the happiness which each gave 
and received in so abundant a measure. They passed some days to- 
gether in the one inhabited house, 'surrounded,' says Mrs. Henry 
Lawrence, ' by long lines of barracks, hospitals, and stables, flagstaff, 
racquet-court, church, bungalows, gardens, out-offices, all empty, all 
looking as if a plague had devastated the station in a night.' x 

A plague had devastated the station, not in a night, but in a year, 
or rather series of years. Kurnal, when John Lawrence had last 
known it, had been one of the largest, healthiest, and most popular of 
the cantonments in India. Its local advantages were great for such 
a purpose ; for the country was open and suitable for the evolutions of 
troops ; the soil was light and sandy, and therefore conducive to 
health ; there was plenty of grass and water ; lastly, the two great 
roads from Delhi and Meerut converged there, and, standing as the 
place did on the direct highway between the Punjab and Hindustan, 
it had been, as I have already pointed out, the historic battle-field of 
India. What then had turned it into such a city of the dead ? It 
was not that the general condition of the people had deteriorated. 
On the contrary, there were signs of improvement everywhere. In 
1833-35, when John Lawrence had been stationed there before, what 
between the oppressive assessments of previous years and the famine, 
the people had been at their lowest ebb, and many villages had been 
completely broken up. But he had not left till he had seen, and had, in 
great measure, caused, the turn of the tide. He had brought order 
out of anarchy, had postponed the payment of the land-tax, and had 
set on foot its permanent reduction, a work which others had, after- 
wards, been able satisfactorily to complete. What then was the cause of 
the epidemic and of the distress which it had brought in its train ? 
Fretting at the want of work, and finding that some fifty per cent, of 
the troops were struck down by fever, and that the rest were so 
enfeebled that ' there was not a man of them who could carry his 
arms or march a stage,' while the natives in the adjoining villages were 
suffering equally, he spent his spare time in an elaborate inquiry into 
the cause of the epidemic and its possible remedies. The results he 
embodied in a valuable paper, the first of the kind in my possession, 
which he put together at Delhi in the following spring. 

The epidemic he traced, not, as so many high authorities have 
since done, to canal irrigation in itself, thus, rightly or wrongly, dis- 

Life of Sir Henry Lawrence, vol. i. p. 442. 

1842-46 FIRST SIKH WAR. 149 

couraging the chief safeguard against famine, and the cheapest means 
of intercommunication, but rather to the neglect of proper precautions 
in carrying out that irrigation, to the masses of herbage and brushwood 
which had been allowed to grow on the canal banks, and to the in- 
creased cultivation of rice. The inhabitants of that part of India, it 
should be remembered, unlike the natives of Bengal, had, till lately, 
been accustomed to live, not on rice, but on wheat, barley, and pulses 
of various kinds. These last crops need comparatively little water, 
whereas rice, to do well, needs to be incessantly flooded. ' Rice, in 
fact, grows only in a marsh, and in the last few years it had come to 
be cultivated literally up to the bungalows.' The cantonment was 
quite surrounded on two sides by rice-fields. Here was one fertile 
source of mischief, and the neglect, on the part of the military author- 
ities, which allowed this had also allowed vast masses of refuse to 
accumulate. 'The only scavengers were the kites and vultures, the 
pariah dogs and pigs.' The bodies of animals and even of men might 
be seen lying about where they had died, without even a handful of earth 
thrown over them, nuisances which John Lawrence used to ferret out 
for himself in his early rides, and order his own police to remove. 
The practical remedies which he suggested for this state of things were 
the absolute prohibition of rice cultivation within four miles of the 
cantonments, the regulation of the height of the water in the canals, 
and the careful removal of herbage from their banks, so that no slimy 
ground or putrid vegetation might be exposed to the burning rays of 
the sun ; an improved system of drainage ; a strict system of sanitary 
police ; the removal of the bazaars to a distance from all barracks, 
bungalows, and hospitals, and their reconstruction with wide wind- 
swept passages or streets. 

All this may seem obvious enough now, but it was not so obvious 
then. It was characteristic of the man, and is historically interesting 
as showing the strong bent of his mind, thus early, towards that 
sanitary reform and that peaceful progress which were the chief aim 
and the chief triumph— not gunpowder and not glory — of his rule as 
Viceroy. He did not save the Kurnal cantonment from condemna- 
tion by his suggested reforms. It was condemned already. But the 
epidemic there, and the stimulus it gave him, did something towards 
enabling him to save many lives thereafter throughout India ■ just as 
his bitter experience, in early life, of red-tape at Paniput, and of the 
famine-stricken poverty of the masses at Gurgaon and Etawa, did 
much to determine the strong conviction on which he ever afterwards 


acted, that tools ought always to go to those who could best handle 
them, and that the first duty of an Indian ruler was not the extension 
of the empire nor the pampering of the rich few, but the care of the 
poverty-stricken millions. 

Two other kindred subjects appear to have attracted John 
Lawrence's attention and to have especially touched his heart during 
his residence at Kurnal — the ' purveyance system ' and the condition 
of the native women. By the purveyance system I mean the system 
which obliged the villagers who lay along the route of great person- 
ages, like the Governor-General or the Commander-in-Chief, not 
only to furnish carts and beasts of burden for the use of their gigantic- 
camps, but often to provide them at great loss, with no remuneration 
at all. The Governor-General had just then, fortunately or unfor- 
tunately, discovered that it was always necessary to go to the hills in 
the hot season, and his huge following must be supported somehow. 
If the native police were employed to collect the carts and animals, 
they took to plundering the natives themselves ; if they were not 
employed, no carts or animals were forthcoming. When, as often 
happened, the animals were called for during ploughing or harvest 
time, it is clear that no ordinary rate of hire would be an adequate 
remuneration, and, very often, even this was wanting or fell into the 
wrong hands. The odium of this, and of other abuses connected 
with the system, of course fell on the Government ; and rightly enough, 
argued John Lawrence, ' in so far as we do not make our servants 
behave better. Natives in office are particularly bad ; sepoys, 
policemen, officers of the revenue, all seem to think it part of their 
perquisites to take everything for nothing.' He then goes on to 
suggest remedies which it is unnecessary to particularise, as they 
have long since been applied. 

The condition of the native women touched him even more 
keenly. Men thought nothing of selling their wives or those of their 
deceased brothers, or forcing them to live with themselves. At the 
best, women were mere drudges, hard worked and ill treated, and 
suicide was very common among them. In Gurgaon, in 1835, John 
Lawrence had ascertained that upwards of five hundred women had 
been found drowned in wells, and though accident would account 
for some of these, the wells in that country being left in a very ex- 
posed and dangerous condition, yet it was certain, he thought, that 
the greater number had committed suicide, or had fallen in by foul 
means. The monotony of his hours spent in cutcherry was, some- 

1842-46 FIRST SIKH WAR. 151 

times, relieved by cases which, tragical in themselves, yet wore a 
semi-comic aspect. One day a man lodged a complaint against a 
friend for having carried off his wife and sold her to another man 
for thirty- six rupees ! John Lawrence at first disbelieved the story, 
but it turned out to be true. The culprit had taken advantage of 
the absence of the husband and the illness of the wife to put her in a 
dhoolie and carry her off. The third man acknowledged the pur- 
chase, and said the woman had lived with him contentedly as his 
wife ! The guilty parties were sentenced to six months in gaol, and 
the husband and wife went away quite satisfied, ' neither of them ap- 
pearing to think that they were any the worse for what had happened. 
A much more pathetic story, and one calculated to stir the deepest 
feelings of the human heart, had come before John Lawrence in 
cutcherry, during his previous residence in this same district, and may 
be fitly inserted here. It shall be told in his own language, for it 
would be difficult to improve upon it. 

The Leper. 

Of all diseases that afflict humanity, the leprosy has always appeared 
to me the most loathsome and hideous. In no disease is the condition 
of the sufferer more helpless, and yet there is none in which assistance 
and consolation are so difficult to obtain. So malignant is the disorder, 
so infectious is its nature, that every one flies from the leper. To touch 
his skin, nay, even his very clothes, to inhale the same atmosphere, is said 
to be contagious. Though the effects are so fatal and so certain, its 
progress is usually slow and insidious. From the first slight speck on the 
hand or lip, until it spreads over the whole body, years may elapse, and 
during this period the health of the person does not seem to suffer. He 
pursues his daily occupations, and though no one will actually touch him 
or allow him to eat out of the same dish with him, men do not consider 
it dangerous to associate with him. I recollect a native officer of a 
cavalry contingent, a good soldier, and a respectable man, who did his 
duty for many years under this affliction ; and I have often seen the men 
of his troop lounging on the same cushions with him. As the disease, 
however, spreads, the leper is gradually shunned. Friends, kinsmen, 
and relatives, all forsake him. The mother who has nursed him, the 
wife of his bosom, all fly the leper. A hut is built for him far from the 
haunts of his fellow-men, and daily his food is placed on a distant stone, 
to which on the departure of the ministering hand, he may drag his weary 

These thoughts have been suggested by an extraordinary and horrible 
incident which happened some years ago in the district where I was 


magistrate. I was sitting in court, busily engaged in my duty, when a 
villager in the crowd called out that he had a petition of much importance 
to present, and prayed that I would listen to it at once. ' I would not 
put it into the petition box,' said he, c as I was anxious to give it to you 
with my own hand.' As I assented to his request, he came up and laid 
his petition on the table. The complaint was from a leper, a relation of 
the man before me. It ran thus : — 

' Hail, cherisher of the afflicted ! 

* Be it known to your enlightened mind that your devoted servant 
has been a leper for many years. My limbs have fallen off piece by 
piece ; my whole body has become a mass of corruption. I am weary of 
life ; I wish to die. My life is a plague and disgust to the whole village, 
and my death is earnestly longed for. It is well known to all that for a 
leper to consent to die, to permit himself to be buried alive, is approved 
of by the gods, who will never afflict another individual of his village with 
a similar malady. I therefore solicit your permission to be buried alive. 
The whole village wishes it, and I am happy and content to die. You 
are the ruler of the land and without your leave it would be criminal. 
Hoping that I may obtain my prayer, I pray that the sun of prosperity 
may ever shine on you. 

< (Signed) Ram Buksh, Leper.' 

It certainly takes much to move me, but I confess to have been fairly 
astounded on hearing this petition. I have seen curious things in my 
day, and have heard extraordinary requests preferred, but this exceeded 
anything of the kind. * Who are you ? What is your name ? Are you a 
relation of the leper ? Is he mad ? He certainly cannot be in his right 
mind.' After receiving answers to these and similar inquiries, I asked, 
' W T here is the man ? ' The villager replied, 4 He is outside the house. 
We have had him carried here on a dhoolie — a kind of cot carried on 
men's shoulders — if you will come outside you can speak to him and 
satisfy yourself that what I have stated is true.' I rose up and followed 
the man. There was a dhoolie placed under a tree in the shade, and, at 
a little distance, stood a group of villagers. ' There he is, and there are 
his father and brothers with some of the headmen of our village,' said my 
guide, pointing to them. I immediately entered into conversation with 
them, and they all confirmed the first speaker's statement. The wretched 
man himself, who appeared to be in an advanced stage of the disease, was 
a most hideous spectacle. His arms were gone from the elbows down- 
wards, and his legs downwards from his knees, and his whole body was a 
mass of corruption. * O Sahib ! ' he cried, ' for God's sake listen to my 
petition ; let me be buried alive. I have lived too long ; let me die ! ' 
' My poor fellow,' I replied, 4 it is not in my power to comply with your 
request ; 'tis a sad business, but it would be unlawful ; it would be murder ; 

1842-46 FIRST SIKH WAR. 153 

it cannot be allowed.' As the man began to wail and scream I ordered 
him to be carried away, after charging his relations to take every care of 

After the court was over, being in conversation with an intelligent 
native, who had been present during the day, and had witnessed the 
scene, he asked me why I had refused the leper's petition. * He must 
die soon ; he is in great misery ; it would have benefited both him and 
his village,' remarked the man. ' What,' said I, ' do you really believe 
that no one of the community will again be a leper ? ' ' Yes,' replied he, 
'and so does the whole country.' 'Well,' I remarked, * there is no 
reasoning on points of belief, but to me it appears ridiculous. At any 
rate, under the Company's rule such an act would be criminal. I have 
no power to grant the permission, even were I willing.' ' It is all very 
true what the hazoor has observed ; but you will find that the village will 
bury him alive without leave,' replied the native, as he made his salaam 
and retired. 

Thinking such a thing to be out of the question, I dismissed the 
matter from my mind. But, a few days afterwards, I received a report 
from the police officer of an out-station to the effect that, hearing that a 
man had been buried alive, he had visited the spot, and, to ascertain the 
fact, had dug up the body, which proved to be that of the leper. On 
the parties being arrested, it appeared that they were the same individuals 
who had solicited permission from me in the manner I have described. 
In the investigation which ensued, I found that on their return from the 
unsuccessful application to me, they had held a consultation of the whole 
village, when it was determined that the leper should be buried. This, 
accordingly, was done in the open day, with all due solemnity, the whole 
population attending. The headmen of the village, the watchmen, and 
other local functionaries, were committed to take their trial at the sessions, 
Avhere they all pleaded guilty, and were condemned to imprisonment. 
Punishment was no doubt necessary, though I am happy to say it was 
lenient. I think the maximum was not more than six months' confine- 
ment in the district jail. I could not but think that they were more to be 
pitied than blamed, and that, however revolting to our feelings was the 
manner of putting the unfortunate creature to death, in . his own words 
1 he had lived too long.' 
Delhi : March 7, 1845. 

The man who could listen to such a tale as this unmoved, or who 
could pass many years in a position of authority amidst a people so 
quick-witted and yet so credulous, so impoverished and yet so un- 
complaining, so tractable and yet so tenacious of their narrow rights, 
so long and so often overrun by foreign conquerors, and yet so un- 
alterably attached to their ancestral manners and creeds, and then 


fail to feel towards them somewhat as a father feels to a wayward but 
a helpless and a trustful child, is hardly to be found, and, if found, 
he would be little to be envied. Englishmen there have been and 
still are in India, who, priding themselves on their race or their 
colour, their superior strength of body or strength of will, despise the 
natives, keep aloof from them, call them by the opprobrious name of 
( nigger,' and strike or maltreat them in a way in which they would 
not venture to treat a European. But such Englishmen have happily 
always been in a comparatively small minority. They may be found 
sometimes among passing visitors to India, among the youngest and 
most empty-headed officers of the army, or among the frivolous and 
fashionable and scandal-loving society of the great towns. But they 
are not to be found in the ranks of the civil service, or amongst those 
soldier statesmen who have built up and have preserved our Indian 
Empire. It is not in the writings, the conversation, or the acts of 
men like Sir Thomas Munro or Lord Metcalfe, like Outram or 
Havelock, like Henry or John Lawrence, and of the hundreds of 
good men and true of whom these are but the most brilliant repre- 
sentatives, that we can find a word or a deed indicative of other than 
the deepest and most affectionate interest in the helpless and voiceless 
millions over whom they rule. John Lawrence never weighed his 
words too carefully. If he thought a man a knave or a fool, he gene- 
rally called him so to his face. If he had to strike at all, he struck a 
knock-down blow. Yet, in the thousands of his letters written off on 
the spur of the moment, that I have read, I have not come upon a 
single expression which would wound the pride of the most sensitive 
of natives ; nor does he, in one single instance, use the opprobrious 
term which is the very first to come to the mouth of too many young 
officers, or casual visitors in India. These are the men who know 
the natives, who sympathise with them, and have learned to love 
them ; who, in the spirit of a truly imperial race, look upon them- 
selves as the servants of those whom they rule, and rule by serving 
them ; who do everything that in them lies to bridge over the yawn- 
ing gulf which, by our fate or by our fault, still separates colour from 
colour, race from race, and creed from creed. Till that gulf can be, 
in some measure, bridged over, whatever our good intentions, and 
whatever the benefits of our rule — and they are neither few nor small 
— we still, disguise it as we may, hold India by the sword ; and so 
long as we hold it by the sword alone, we hold it by the least satis- 
factory and the most precarious of tenures. 

1842-46 FIRST SIKH WAR. 155 

In November, 1843, the ' acting ' appointment at Kurnal came to 
an end, and John Lawrence travelled back, bag and baggage, over 
the well-known ground, to take up another temporary appointment 
at Delhi It was not till towards the end of the following year that 
the 'substantive' post became vacant, and then, at last, the right 
man was found in the right place, and John Lawrence became, in 
his own right, Magistrate and Collector of the two districts of Delhi 
and Paniput. During these last two years, his salary had been less, 
than half of that which he had received before he left India on 
furlough ; and it must have been difficult enough for a man who 
was so hospitable and so liberal, to maintain his wife, his child, his 
servants, and his two pairs of horses on so narrow an income. He 
had now just attained, in rank and emoluments, to the position he 
had held before he left India, invalided ; and in the general depres- 
sion which prevailed in India as the result of the Afghan war, and 
that other war which followed, and, if possible, outstripped it in 
iniquity— the war with the Ameers of Scinde— his contemporaries 
found themselves in much the same deadlock as he did. In 
November, 1844, a second daughter, Emily, was born, just at the 
time when her father's means became more adequate to his needs 
and his deserts. 

Of the work done by him during the next two years as Magistrate 
and Collector of Delhi there is, unfortunately, little to tell; though, to 
judge by what I have been told was, in after years, his usual exordium 
in telling a story — 'when I was Collector at Delhi' — there must 
have been not a little that would have been well worth the telling, if 
only it had been preserved. But from what I have been able to 
record of his work during his earlier sojourn there, we may, doubt- 
less, infer the general character of the later. There were the same 
general elements of turbulence, disaffection, and difficulty : the 
corrupt palace of the effete Mogul, who was now some ten years 
nearer to his total dissolution ; the swashbucklers who infested his 
court ; the large criminal class and the mongrel multitude of the 
historic capital. Sir Robert Montgomery recollects the reputation 
which John Lawrence acquired, and which reached even to Allaha- 
bad, by the masterly manoeuvring of a small body of police with 
whom he descended on a nest of gamblers and cutthroats, 'bud- 
mashes ' of every description, and took them all prisoners, without 
shedding a drop of blood, and without creating even so much as a 


One illustration of the love of fun which lay deep within him, and 
doubtless flashed out continually during this earlier and less con- 
ventional period of his life, has, happily, been preserved ; for he used 
to tell how the officer in command at Delhi, one day, sent him a 
letter in which not one word was legible. John Lawrence, after 
puzzling briefly over it, returned a reply, ' My dear Colonel ' — followed 
by a few lines of unmeaning scribble, and duly signed. Shortly 
afterwards, the Colonel came over to the Collector in high wrath to 
demand explanations. The Collector met him by presenting his 
own letter, which its writer could not read. 1 

During the spring months of 1845, John Lawrence found time, 
with the help of his ever-faithful amanuensis and companion, to 
write down the graphic stories of his earlier life in India, of which 
I have reproduced so many ; and, in November of the same year, 
came one of the turning-points in his life. Up to this time, he had 
owed nothing to the favour or attention of the great. He had 
helped fortune far more than fortune had helped him. He had 
passed through all the grades of the Civil Service, perhaps at a 
slower, certainly not at a faster, rate than the average civilian. Any 
special amount of experience he had acquired was of his own 
seeking, and at the cost of enormous labour. His fame, so far as it 
had yet spread, was the result of what he had done, and of nothing 
else. Unlike Sir Charles Metcalfe, with whom, in view of the high 
elevation which each ultimately attained, it is most natural to com- 
pare him, and who was taken under the wing of Lord Wellesley 
from the moment of his arrival, and was pushed rapidly on from one 
appointment to another, John Lawrence owed nothing to the patron- 
age of Government House. His life in India had covered the 
greater portion of the careers of three Governors- General — Lord 
William Bentinck, Lord Auckland, and Lord Ellenborough — and 
there is nothing to show that any one of these did so much as know 
him even by name. But more stormy times were now coming on, 
and, by a happy accident, he was brought into contact with the 
new Governor-General, at the outset of his Indian career. 

Lord Ellenborough, with the glory or the shame of the annexa- 
tion of Scinde indelibly attaching to him, had been recalled, in the 
mid- career of his contumacious eccentricities, by the masters whom 
he had throughout resolved to treat as though they were his servants. 

1 See Quarterly Review for April 1883, Article on « Lord Lawrence,' p. 302. 

1842-46 FIRST SIKH WAR. 157 

The laconic and world-famous despatch, ' Peccavi, I have Scinde,' 
fathered by ' Punch ' upon the splendid and self-willed soldier, was the 
confession of a grim truth, the whole responsibility for which his 
proud humility would have been quite content to bear. But this, 
unfortunately, could not be. It had to be borne by the nation at 
large, and the annexation of Scinde remains, and will always remain, 
one of the deepest blots on our national escutcheon. An act 
condemned not only by such chivalrous soldiers as Sir James 
Outram, and such high civil authorities as Sir Henry Pottinger and 
Captain Eastwick, who had been for years upon the spot, and who 
knew the circumstances best, but unanimously disapproved of, as 
Mr. Gladstone has recently told us, by a Cabinet which contained 
men of such varied ability and such vast knowledge as Sir Robert 
Peel and the Duke of Wellington, as Lord Derby and Sir Henry 
Hardinge, and Mr. Gladstone himself, when once it was done, could 
not, it was thought, well be undone. To have undone it, would have 
involved — so the Government, looking at their imperial responsibilities, 
determined — a wrong the more ; and so they were obliged to condone, 
and to hand down to posterity, that most terrible of possessions — a 
heritage of triumphant wrong. Truly, the provincial rulers who use 
the power which is, of necessity, entrusted to them in an empire with 
such vast and such widely scattered dependencies as England, to 
involve it in an unjust war, or an uncalled-for annexation— who thus 
force the hand and conscience of the nation beforehand, and bind 
up with its history, for all time, the consciousness of injustice, — incur 
the most fearful of responsibilities. It may be necessary to entrust 
them with the power, and it may, sometimes, also be necessary to 
call it into action ; but, if they misuse it, they should feel that they 
do so, like the proposers of a new law in the conservative Greek 
colony of old, with a rope around their necks. 

The state of the regions beyond the Sutlej, seething with a brave 
and turbulent soldiery, who, for some years past — ever since, in fact, 
the strong hand of Runjeet Sing, the lion of the Punjab, had been 
withdrawn — had set their own government at defiance, and might, it 
was believed, at any moment burst upon British India, seemed to call 
for the best soldier at our command to succeed Lord Ellenborough. 
He was found in the person of the veteran, who, as a subaltern, had 
received four wounds, had had four horses shot under him, and had 
won nine medals in the Peninsula ■ who, as a Lieutenant-Colonel, 
had turned the tide in the battle of Albuera — itself the turning-point 


of the Peninsular War ; had, afterwards, bled at Ligny, and was the 
special favourite of both Blucher and Wellington — the high-souled 
and chivalrous Sir Henry Hardinge. He had been enjoined, with 
more than usual solemnity, by the Court of Directors, to keep the 
peace, if peace were possible, and, with probably more than the usual 
sincerity of newly appointed Governors- General, he had pledged 
himself to do so. * A purer man,' so Mr. Gladstone, the last surviving 
and the most brilliant member of the Cabinet in which he served, 
has recently remarked, ' a more honourable man, and, great soldier 
as he was, a man less capable of being dazzled by military glory, never 
entered the councils of his sovereign.' But events were too strong for 
him. He found that the preparations which had been made for the 
defence of the frontier by his battle-loving predecessor were inade- 
quate to the daily increasing danger ; and with consummate skill, 
still hoping for peace but preparing for war, he managed, quite un- 
observed by the Indian public, within little more than a year after he 
had reached the country, to double the number of our troops on the 
threatened positions. 

So true a soldier would not be content without a personal in- 
spection of the frontier line. His road lay through Delhi, and 
on November n, 1845, ne met > f° r tne ^ rst time, its Collector and 
Magistrate — the subject of this biography. A soldier born and bred, 
he was not likely to know much of civil matters ; but he was able, as 
the result showed, to appreciate, almost at a glance, the capacities, 
military and civil, latent and developed, of John Lawrence. Each, 
at first sight, was favourably impressed with the other — the Governor- 
General with the energy, the sagacity, and the knowledge of the 
Magistrate, who accompanied him in his rides over the ruined cities 
which surrounded the city of the living, and endeavoured to explain 
to him all the mysteries of irrigation and of revenue collection ; the 
Magistrate with the frankness and friendliness and military spirit of 
the Governor-General. ' I went out,' writes John to his brother 
Henry, in one of the earliest of his letters which has come into my 
hands, 'on the nth to meet the Governor- General. He came in 
yesterday. I like him much ; he is amiable and considerate, but 
does not give me any idea of being a man of ability. Currie and 
Benson are the only men of standing about him : the rest are mere 
logs. Everything breathes a pacific air ; I do not think there will be 
a war. He leaves here on the 19th, and goes straight to Umballa. 

1842-46 FIRST SIKH WAR. 159 

He does not seem to me to be much at home on civil matters, or to 
interest himself on such subjects, but he is wide awake in all military 

In another letter, written a few days later, November 27, a little 
light is thrown on his own doings. ' The troops from Meerut have 
been called off in a great hurry, I believe by Broadfoot. Cope is full 
of warlike ideas, but I believe it is a false alarm. Certainly the 
Governor-General knew nothing of the matter, for some of his own 
aides-de-camp were here amusing themselves at the races. ... I 
have hardly a moment to myself, for my assistants are all gone, and 
my joint magistrate, poor fellow, who only married a few months 
since, is at the point of death. I will send you Alison. You will 
find him a pleasant writer, but very one-sided ; and though always 
speaking ex cathedra, as it were, not always as right as he thinks.' It 
is not difficult to imagine the interest with which John Lawrence, with 
his fondness for military history, when looking forward to the arrival 
of Sir Henry Hardinge, would have turned to the account given by 
Alison — whom he so well characterises — of the field of Albuera, and 
would have found there the young Lieutenant-Colonel, who had now 
risen to be Governor-General, justly described as the 'young soldier 
with the eye of a general and the soul of a hero.' 

One or two comments are naturally suggested by the letters I have 
quoted. First, it should be remembered that the impressions formed 
as to the want of ability of the Governor-General were first impres- 
sions only, dashed off hurriedly, according to John Lawrence's manner, 
and that they were afterwards considerably modified. Indeed, his 
subsequent estimate of the Governor-General came nearer to the very 
high one formed, from the most intimate knowledge, by his brother 
Henry, and published, since his death, in his collected essays. 

Secondly, Sir Henry Hardinge was fully conscious of his own 
ignorance ' of civil matters,' and, being conscious of it, wisely forebore 
to meddle with them. Before leaving England he had sought the 
advice, as any wise Governor-General would do — and it would be 
well if all succeeding Governors- General had done the like— of the 
man who, of all men then living, knew most of India. The leading 
bit of advice then given him by Mountstuart Elphinstone was ' not 
to meddle with civil details ; ' and, acting on this advice, when he 
landed in Calcutta, he sent for the Government Secretaries, bade 
them give him the best advice they could in writing, and warned them 


that, if they tried to avail themselves of his ignorance in such matters, 
it would be the worse for them sooner or later. l 

Thirdly, ' Everything seems pacific ; I do not think there will be 
a war.' This reads oddly enough, when we remember that it was on 
the very day (November 1 7) on which it was written that the Durbar 
at Lahore determined to invade British India ; that it was nothing 
but the scruples of the astrologers, who said that the stars were not 
favourable, which delayed operations for a single day ; that, on the 
nth of the following month, the Sikh army began to cross the Sutlej, 
and that, by the 15 th, the whole strength of the famous Khalsa 
commonwealth — 60,000 soldiers, 40,000 camp-followers, and 150 
heavy guns — were safely landed in British territory. We may well 
ask, How could John Lawrence himself, how could the Governor- 
General, how could the Commander-in-Chief, and the most ex- 
perienced officers on the frontier— Littler, Broadtoot, Wheeler, and 
others— all agree that no immediate danger was to be apprehended ? 
They thought, indeed, that bands of Akalis — fanatics, akin to the 
Muslim Ghazis — might rush on their deaths by haphazard incursions. 
But not one of them feared the deliberate and immediate invasion of 
an army. The fact is, that the Sikh Durbar had given secret orders 
for the invasion, not so much with any hope of conquering British 
India, as of securing their own safety. They had reason to fear that 
their tumultuary army, the Praetorian Guard of Lahore, would turn 
and rend them. Would it not be well to give it vent elsewhere ? If 
the Sikh army were destroyed in the invasion of India, the Sirdars 
might still hope for consideration from the British. If it were suc- 
cessful, they would step quietly in tor a share of the spoil. Such 
reckless and cruel policy it would have been difficult for any one 
outside the Durbar itself to have predicted. ' No one can tell,' as 
John Lawrence pertinently remarks in one of his letters, ' what fools 
will do.' But it is material also to observe in defence of the British 
authorities, that they had made preparations even for what they did 
not expect ; and hardly had the Sikhs entered British territory, when 
an army, adequately equipped for anything that seemed to be within 
the range of possibility, advanced to meet them. 

Declining the conflict gallantly offered them by Sir John Littler at 
Ferozepore, the Sikhs, who outnumbered him as six to one, pushed 
on in two divisions — one to Moodki and the other to Ferozeshuhr — 

1 Marshman's History of India, vol. iii. p. 272. 

1842-46 FIRST SIKH WAR. 161 

and, on December 18 and 21, followed two pitched battles against foes 
such as, happily, we had never had to face before in India. The in- 
terest attaching to the conflict resembles that which belongs to the 
war between Rome and Pyrrhus, when, for the first time, the Roman 
legion met the Macedonian phalanx, and a national militia found 
themselves pitted against a highly trained and veteran army of mer- 
cenaries. In the Sutlej campaign now opening, the Sikh, trained by 
French and Italian officers, and inspired by religious as well as by 
national enthusiasm, crossed swords, for the first time, with the Bengal 
Sepoy, who ate the Company's salt, and fought for us simply because 
he did so. And if our army had consisted of Sepoys only, the result 
would certainly not have been in favour of the Sepoys. It needed 
all the reckless valour of the grand old Commander-in-Chief, Sir 
Hugh Gough ; all the chivalrous devotion of the Governor-General, 
who, like Scipio Africanus of old, cheerfully waived his pre-eminence 
and consented to take the second place, to restore the waning for- 
tunes of the day. It needed all that the imbecility, the cowardice, 
and even the treachery of the Sikh commanders, Lai and Tej Sing, 
could do, to compel their dare-devil soldiers to know when they were 
beaten, and to bend before the storm. 

But the battle of Moodki was only the prelude to a greater. 
Three days later, the real struggle took place at Ferozeshuhr. The 
Sikh army, 33,000 strong, had entrenched itself in a formidable 
position, defended by a hundred heavy guns. It was not till nearly 
four in the afternoon of the shortest day in the year that Sir Hugh 
Gough, with characteristic recklessness, gave the order to storm their 
entrenchments ! Again and again, our battalions charged right up 
to the muzzles of the enemy's guns ; and, again and again, they were 
driven back, with heavy loss, by the Sikh infantry, who stood unmoved 
to meet them. It was an experience new for us in Indian warfare, 
and drove us, for the first time, to respect our foes. As night closed, 
our troops found themselves half outside and half within the enemy's 
position, unable either to advance or retreat. Regiments were mixed 
up with regiments, and officers with men, in the wildest confusion. 
The enemy's camp was on fire in several places, and was enlivened 
by frequent explosions ; but their heavy guns still kept playing on 
our men as they lay exhausted on the frozen ground not three hun- 
dred yards off. What the Governor-General did during this c night 
of terrors,' as it was justly called, throwing himself down to rest, now 
by the side of one set of disheartened men, now of another, cheering 

vol. 1. M 

1 62 LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. 1842-46 

them up for the morrow's work, and, anon, leading them himself 
through the darkness in a desperate charge upon ' Futteh Jung,' the 
monster gun which was dealing death upon their ranks, and triumph- 
antly spiking it, 1 reads like the record of some Homeric chieftain, or 
of an Alexander, a Hannibal, or a Caesar come to life again. Well 
might the veteran of the Peninsular War say that he had 'never 
known a night so extraordinary as this ; ' and well too, when the 
morning dawned, might he exclaim, in the words of Pyrrhus, whose 
romantic conflict with Rome this seemed likely now to resemble in 
more ways than one, ' Another such victory and we are undone ! ' 

Happily for our Indian Empire, the treachery of Lai Sing on 
the following day was still more pronounced, and the victory which 
crowned our efforts was much more decisive. The enemy's camp 
was taken ; their army was put to flight ; a new army which came 
up under Tej Sing from Ferozepore and had not yet drawn a sword, 
hesitated, for some inscrutable reason, to attack our worn-out troops, 
who had not tasted food for thirty-six hours and had fired away 
almost their last round of ammunition ; and, by the evening, the 
whole Sikh force was in full retreat. 

Never, except at the very crisis of the Mutiny, was India in 
greater danger than during these two days and this night of terror. 
It was a Cadmean victory that we had won ; and a Cadmean victory 
it might have remained, had not Sir Henry Hardinge, who had lost 
a seventh of his army, had seen ten out of his twelve aides-de-camp 
wounded or killed at his side, and was mourning the loss, among 
many others equally distinguished in recent Indian history, of D'Arcy 
Todd and Broadfoot, bethought him of the strenuous and energetic 
magistrate with whom he had so lately spent those interesting days 
at Delhi. It was now, at the very crisis of the struggle, that the 
Governor-General, unable to follow up his victory from the want of 
ammunition, of siege guns, and of provisions, and unable to fall back 
towards his base, because to do so would invite another invasion of 
the still unbroken Sikh army, wrote, in his own handwriting, and in 
hot haste, as its contents show, a pressing note to the Collector and 
Magistrate of Delhi to come to his aid. The opportunity had thus 
at length come to the man, and the man was not wanting to the 
opportunity. He had put his own foot into the stirrup, and it was 
not likely now that he would fail to leap into the saddle. 

1 See the graphic description of the battle in Cunningham's admirable History 
cf the Sikhs, pp. 301-3. 

1842-46 FIRST SIKH WAR. 163 

The neighbourhood of Delhi had been already much drained by 
the preparations for the war, by the marching and countermarching 
of troops, and, it must be added, by the passing and repassing, even 
in years of peace, of the huge camps of the Governor-General or the 
Commander-in-Chief, as they moved along the great thoroughfare 
towards the North- West. John Lawrence had not been slow, as I 
have already shown, to point out the abuses to which the purveyance 
system was liable, and now, curiously enough, he had to apply that 
system himself on the most extensive and unprecedented scale. His 
sensitiveness to right and wrong made him not less, but infinitely 
more, capable for the task that was imposed upon him. He managed, 
partly by personal influence, partly by promises of adequate pay, which 
he took care should reach the hands of the right persons, to raise in 
that thinly peopled country, within a very short space of time, the 
extraordinary number of 4,000 carts, each of which, as he arranged, 
was to be driven by its owner ; and as a result of his admirable 
arrangements hardly any of the drivers deserted. 

As soon as the great magazine of Delhi, in which men worked 
day and night moulding bullets and turning out every instrument of 
death, had done its part, John Lawrence despatched the whole train 
on its journey of two hundred miles along the great northern road, 
in time to take a share — the lion's share — in the crowning victory of 
Sobraon. Indeed, without his exertions, Sobraon would have been 
impossible, or, at all events, indefinitely postponed. The Sikhs, 
encouraged by our inability to follow up our success at Ferozeshuhr, 
and putting it down to cowardice, had again crossed the Sutlej under 
Runjore Sing, had inflicted a severe reverse on Sir Harry Smith at 
Buddowal, and had been defeated by him in turn, but certainly not 
disgraced, on January 28, at Aliwal. 

On February 9, the long train of heavy guns dragged by stately 
elephants, of ammunition, of treasure and supplies of every kind, 
reached the camp from Delhi. The spirits of officers and men rose 
at the sight, and, on the following day, the decisive battle was fought. 
The Sikh troops, basely betrayed by their leaders, who had come — 
so it was said, and not without some appearance of truth — to a secret 
understanding with us, fought like heroes. One old chief, whose 
name should be recorded — Sham Sing — ' among the faithless faithful 
only found,' clothed in white garments, and devoting himself to death, 
like Decius of old, called on those around him to strike for God 
and the Guru, and, dealing death everywhere around him, rushed 

1 64 LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. 1842-46 

manfully upon his own. The Sikhs were, once more, in a position 
of their own choice, and, once more, the impetuous Commander-in- 
Chief, in defiance of the rules of war, charged with splendid gallantry 
the guns of the enemy in front. It was in this one respect the battle 
of Ferozeshuhr over again. But, taught by experience, Sir Hugh 
Gough began it at seven in the morning instead of at four in the 
afternoon, and by eleven a.m. the fighting was over. The Sikhs had 
fought with a broad and swollen river in their rear, and many hun- 
dreds whom the cannon or the sword would have spared, were swept 
away in its waters. 

The battle of Sobraon ended the campaign and the war. The 
Punjab was prostrate at Lord Hardinge's feet, and the unprovoked 
attack of the Khalsa on our territories gave him an unquestioned 
right to annex the whole. But there were difficulties in the way. 
The advanced season ; the exhaustion of our army, which now con- 
tained barely 3,000 European troops ; the probable expense of the 
administration of so poor and so vast a country ; the salutary dislike 
of the Company and its best servants to all unnecessary extension of 
territory ; the advantage of having a brave and partially civilised 
race between ourselves and the more ferocious and untameable tribes 
of Afghanistan, wars with whom would bring us neither gain nor 
glory ; — all these were arguments against annexation, and Sir Henry 
Hardinge, with that prudence and that moderation which were 
habitual to him, determined to be content with a part when he might 
have clutched at the whole, and to give the Sikhs another chance— a 
bojtafide chance — of maintaining their independence. On the out- 
break of the war he had formally proclaimed the annexation of the 
protected Sikh domain on our side of the Sutlej, and he now deter- 
mined to cripple the power of the Khalsa for further aggression by 
confiscating the Jullundur Doab — together with the adjacent hill 
tracts on the other side of the Beas, Kangra, Nurpore, and Nadoun. 
The expenses of the war were, according to invariable custom, to fall 
also upon the vanquished. But these the Durbar, alike profligate 
and insolvent, professed its inability to pay, and in lieu thereof, the 
Governor-General arranged to take over the highlands of Jummoo 
and that earthly paradise, the valley of Kashmere. But while the 
Punjab was independent it was impossible for us to keep a satisfac- 
tory hold of Jummoo. And, by a very questionable stroke of policy, 
which had been arranged beforehand, and which has brought woes 
innumerable on the unhappy Kashmiris ever since, we handed it 

1842-46 FIRST SIKH WAR. 165 

•over to the Dogra Rajpoot, Golab Sing, who paid us down at once in 
the hard cash which he had stolen from the Lahore Durbar. He 
was an unscrupulous man, but an able ruler, amenable to our in- 
fluence, and would now be bound down by the only obligation he 
would be likely to recognise — his own self-interest — to aid us in 
checking any further ebullition of Khalsa fury. 

But who was to rule the country which we had annexed and 
intended to keep within our grip— the Jullundur Doab ? Who but 
the sturdy Collector who had made his name to be a watchword for 
ability, order, economy, indefatigable work throughout the Delhi 
district, and who, it might be confidently hoped, would be able to 
manage Rajpoots, Gudis, and Kashmiris in the highlands, as he had 
been already able to manage Jats, Ranghurs, and Goojurs below? 
With two weak corps of native infantry and one battery of native 
artillery, he had preserved perfect order during these troublous times 
in the imperial city, while war was raging, and raging not always to 
our credit or our advantage, within our own territories, not two 
hundred miles away. He had ridden about the city during these 
three months of peril, amidst its turbulent populace, attended by 
his single orderly as though in time of profound peace. In antici- 
pation of the annexation on which he had determined, Sir Henry 
Hardinge had written, some time before, to Thomason, the dis- 
tinguished Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces, 
asking him to send up John Lawrence for a high executive 
appointment in the Cis-Sutlej states, which had been already an- 
nexed. Thomason, who was primarily responsible for the safety 
of his own provinces, thought that Lawrence could not be spared 
from Delhi at such a crisis, and sent up instead another officer 
whom he deemed to be 'well qualified' for the post. But the well- 
qualified officer was sent back without ceremony to the place whence 
he came, and the peremptory message, ' Send me vcpjolm Lawrence? 
showed that the Governor-General was not to be trifled with ; that 
he had made up his mind ; and that John Lawrence, and no one 
else, was, as soon as the war was over, to be the ruler of the Jullundur 
Doab. 1 And accordingly, on March 1, 1846, he was ordered to 

1 I owe this incident, in its outlines, to an interesting and suggestive pamphlet 
on Lord Lawrence by John Thornton, who, at the time referred to, was Secretary 
to the Government of the North-West Provinces. He says of the officer first sent 
up by Thomason to Lord Hardinge, ' Though a man of much literary and intel- 
lectual ability, he had never shown the enerrv of mind and body which the intro- 

1 66 LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. 1842-46 

repair to Umritsur, the religious capital of the Sikhs, there to receive 
the Governor- General's instructions for the onerous and honourable 
post for which his merits, and his merits alone, had recommended 

I will end this chapter by giving the drift of a few personal 
reminiscences contributed by Colonel Balcarres Ramsay, who had 
made John Lawrence's acquaintance some years before in Bonn, 
and who happened to come across him again at this turning-point 
in his career. They give a lively picture of some of the principal 
personages connected with the Sutlej campaign : — - 

On arriving at Delhi, on my way from Bombay to join the head- 
quarters camp during the first Sikh war, I found that John Lawrence, my 
old Bonn friend, was Collector there. I well remember the meeting. He 
was standing on the stairs outside his house talking to Hindu Rao, a 
great hanger-on of the English at that time, and a man whose house 
afterwards became well known as one of the most critical positions on 
the ridge before Delhi. John was pulling up his shirt-sleeves and feeling 
his muscles, a very favourite attitude of his. He seemed delighted to see 
me, and abruptly dismissed his other guest with, ' Nowyougao Mr. Rao,' 
who obsequiously salaamed and disappeared : and, after a chat on old 
times, he told me that he had just been summoned by Lord Hardinge to 
join his camp on important business, and that, if I would wait two days, 
we would go up together. 

Accordingly we started in company, travelling by dawk palanquin. 
During the night he was seized with a most violent attack of cholera. 
So ill was he that I feared he would have died on the road. But, fortu- 
nately, we came upon the tents of a civilian, William Ford, who was out 
in the district, and there we were able to apply energetic remedies which 
saved his life. So powerful was his constitution, that, in a very few hours, we 
were on our journey again. Years afterwards, I met him in the streets of 
London, just after he had been appointed Governor-General. He said to 
me, ' If it had not been for you, I should not now be Governor-General 
of India,' alluding to that night. 

We parted at Loodiana, he making the best of his way to head- 
quarters, while I, having no official status, was detained for a time. I was 
however, destined soon to come across Sir Henry Lawrence, and incur 
his displeasure. I had an order to impress horses between Loodiana 

duction of our system of government into the new province would have required. 
Far less could he have carved out for himself such a destiny as Lawrence after- 
wards achieved. His nomination was, in fact, an error in judgment which was 
very rare with that just and estimable man, and that unrivalled administrator, 
James Thomason.' 

1842-46 FIRST SIKH WAR. 167 

and Ferozepore, belonging to the Puttiala Horse. At one place I took 
what I thought to be the best animal of the lot ; but, unfortunately, it 
belonged to a Sikh from the Manjha, who, after the treaty, had come 
down to see a relative in the Puttiala Horse. He fired at me as I was 
mounting, and I had a narrow escape. I arrived at the camp at Lahore 
just as the Governor-General and his cortege were about to meet the 
young Maharaja, and receive his submission. There was a grand Durbar, 
and when the Koh - i - Noor was handed round for our inspection, 
W. Edwards, the Under-Secretary to Government in the Foreign Depart- 
ment, was put in charge of it. He was extremely nervous, and took it 
round himself from one Staff Officer to another. Just as he had placed it 
in my hands, Sir Henry Hardinge sent for him. I naturally passed it on 
to the next officer, and when Edwards hurried back and demanded the 
precious jewel, I never shall forget the agony depicted in his face as he 
rushed down the ranks of staff officers frantically demanding it. 

That night I dined at the Governor-General's table, where there was 
a large and illustrious party assembled, among them Sir Charles Napier, 
Lord Elphinstone, Lord Gough, Charles West, afterwards Earl de la 
Warr, Sir Henry Lawrence, Herbert Edwardes, and, I think, John 
Lawrence. Dazzled by the lights, and desperately fatigued by my long 
journey from Bombay, I fell asleep almost immediately after sitting down 
to dinner. Just as I was dozing off, I heard Sir Henry Hardinge say, 
1 Let him sleep, poor boy, he is very tired.' I was awakened at the close 
of dinner by a loud burst of laughter, occasioned by the following incident. 
Herbert Edwardes, who was one of the party, had been writing some 
powerful articles in the press, under the name of 'Brahminy Bull. 5 
Towards the close of dinner, Arthur Hardinge — ' dear little Arthur,' his 
father's idol — asked him to take a glass of wine with him. Every eye 
was turned upon Edwardes, Sir Charles Napier's in particular, as it was 
said that an appointment which had been recently conferred on the young 
officer was given with a view to stop his too facile pen. Such was the 
gossip in camp ; so the amusement of all present may be imagined when 
' dear little Arthur,' in his clear boyish accents, shouted from the other 
end of the table, ' I suppose you will not write any more " Brahminy 
Bull" articles now, will you, Mr. Edwardes?' No one laughed more 
heartily than Lord Hardinge, who shook his fist playfully at his son. 

After dinner I found myself confronted by a tall, grave-looking man, 
who said, ' You must not be so zubberdust [high-handed] with the natives. 
I asked him to what he alluded. He replied, ' You seized a Sikh's horse 
the other day.' I said I had an order to use the horses on the road. 
' Yes,' he said, * but not a Sikh's.' ' Well, but,' I remonstrated, ' he nearly 
shot me.' ' Of course,' replied Sir Henry Lawrence — for he it was — ' and 
he was perfectly justified in so doing. The treaty had just been signed, 
and he was proceeding to see his friends, when his property was violently 


taken from him by you.' I could only bow an assent, having nothing to 
urge in my defence. Poor Sir Charles Napier was much dejected at 
being too late for all the hard fighting. He asked me to accompany him 
back to Scinde on my return to the Governor of Bombay's Staff. The 
night before he went, I was taken ill. Sir Charles rode the first day about 
thirty-five miles, and the second an equally long distance ; so there was 
no chance of my overtaking him. This, however, turned out fortunately 
for me, as Sir Henry Hardinge placed me on his personal Staff. 

I saw a good deal of John Lawrence at that time. He had always 
had a great deal of fun about him, and it was irrepressible even now. 
One day, I happened to be in the same howdah with him and three or 
four others, on the back of an elephant going through the streets of 
Lahore, while our army was encamped before it. Seeing an officer ap- 
proaching in solitary state on another elephant, he drove his alongside of 
it and said to me, ' Youngster, we are rather crowded here, you are one 
too many for us, there's a very nice old gentleman who will welcome you 
with open arms ; now jump in quick.' I confess I had misgivings as to 
the ' nice old gentleman; ' but to save myself from falling between the two 
elephants, I had to clasp him round the neck, whereupon the ' nice old 

gentleman' roared at me, 'What do you mean by boarding me in 

this fashion ? ' I said, ' Sir, it is not my fault ; but John Lawrence said 
you were very amiable, and that you would welcome me with open arms.' 
* Ah ! ' he replied, ' I'll pay off Master John for this.' The old gentleman 
in question was Colonel Stuart, the Military Secretary to the Government 
of India, who, though a most estimable person, could hardly be called 
4 amiable.' 




The point which we have now reached in the life of John Lawrence 
is that at which he emerges from comparatively private into public 
life ; from posts which, however important, were yet only sub- 
ordinate, to one in which he stands on his own foundation ; from 
the care of populations which had long been subject to our rule, to 
that of a race who had never felt its stress and had just joined in the 
great, and, at one time almost successful, effort, to oust us from our 
hold of North-Western India. It was a great leap, which carried 
him, at the early age of thirty-four years, clear over the heads of all 
his contemporaries and of many also of his seniors, and roused 
feelings of natural jealousy in some of those whom he had distanced, 
which have hardly yet spent their force. 

The thoughts of John Lawrence, his letters and his acts, no 
longer now affect his friends or relatives alone, or that portion of the 
natives over whom he rules. They take a wider sweep. They 
have a bearing on the government of India and on the momentous 
events which were coming on. That John Lawrence fully appreciated 
the significance of the change, and began now to look upon himself 
as one who might 'have a future,' and need not necessarily 'be 
content to wait for it,' is indicated by his beginning, like other rising 
officials, to preserve in huge folio volumes copies of those letters 
which, being neither strictly official nor strictly private, form so large 
a part of all Indian correspondence, and are known in India by the 
name of ' demi-official.' It was a practice which he never afterwards 
dropped, and his biographer, whose chief complaint has hitherto 
been the meagreness of the written materials placed at his disposal, 
is now inclined to complain of the very opposite, of the embarrassing 
exuberance of materials, which yet never tell their own tale com- 
pletely, and from which he has to winnow, as best he can, such grains 


as are of permanent historical interest, or throw light on the character 
of the man. 

The Jullundur period is one of the busiest of John Lawrence's 
life, and it will be well to inquire first what were the geographical 
and historical conditions of the country over which he was called 
upon to preside. The Jullundur Doab lies between the rivers Sutlej 
and Beas, and is, for the most part, a rich champaign country- 
inhabited by Jats, who hereabouts, as John Lawrence describes 
them, were 'a most industrious painstaking race, very quiet and 
orderly, who had cultivated every mile of waste ground, and were, 
apparently, very glad to submit to our rule.' The northern part of the 
Doab consists of ranges of low hills intersected by narrow valleys, and is 
inhabited by Rajpoot tribes, who, at that time, were split up into many 
sections and were living under their own chiefs. Besides the Doab 
proper, there is a vast mountain tract covering an area of some 
13,000 square miles, and containing a population of 750,000 souls, 
which goes stretching away beneath the snowy range with its peaks 
of 16,000 feet in height, right up to the borders of Ladak in Chinese 
Tartary. This alpine country contains every variety of scenery, of 
climate, of soil, and of race, from the lordly Rajpoot down to the lowly 
Goojur and Jolaha, and is the birthplace of three of the great Punjab 
rivers — the Beas, the Ravi, and the Chenab. The town which has 
given to this region its chief historical celebrity, and which I shall 
presently have to describe in detail, is the famous fortress of Kangra. 
But the whole country bristled with little hill fortresses, which were 
strong by nature if not by art, and were generally held by indepen- 
dent chiefs whose subjects were remarkable for their courage and 
their high sense of honour. Would these hundred little fortresses 
yield to the newly appointed Commissioner, backed by an armed 
force, in the peaceful manner in which the walled village had yielded, 
some years before, to the importunity of the solitary Collector of 

John Lawrence lost no time in buckling down to his work. It 
was on March 1, 1846, that he received his appointment from the 
Governor- General at Umritsur, and by the 30th of the same month 
the Governor-General was paying him a return visit at Jullundur, 
where he had already got well on with the most important and most 
difficult task of the ruler of a newly annexed province, the settlement 
— of course, at present, only a summary settlement — of its revenue. 
He had hoped to complete the work of that particular portion of his 


province in the first week of April ; but the incursion of a Sikh chief 
from the other side of the Beas, and the disturbed state of the 
country bordering on the hills, warned him to drop the pen, to take 
up the sword, and to move northwards to Hoshiarpore. During this 
first month he had been working alone in his new dominions. ' I 
have not yet been joined,' he says, ' by one of my assistants. I work 
from ten to twelve hours every day, and yet I daily leave much 
undone.' By April 10, two out of the four assistants who had been 
promised him had arrived — the one, somewhat impracticable and 
desultory, a thorn in his side the whole time that he remained with 
him ; the other, a man of great ability and energy, who, though he was 
uninitiated as yet into the mysteries of revenue, and therefore was 
unable to help in that department, was destined under John Law- 
rence's tuition to become a high authority on the subject. The 
friendship formed with Robert Cust was a life-long one, and the 
circumstances attending his first interview with his chief have, after 
the lapse of thirty years, been thus recalled by him : — 

It seems but yesterday that I first stood before John Lawrence, in 
April 1846, at the town of Hoshiarpore, the capital of a district in the 
Jullundur Doab, which was my first charge. I found him discussing with 
the Postmaster-General the new lines of postal delivery, and settling with 
the officer commanding the troops the limits of his cantonments. Harry 
Lumsden, then a young subaltern, was copying letters. Seated round 
the small knot of Europeans were scores of Sikh and Mohammedan land- 
holders, arranging with their new lord the terms of their cash assessment. 
John Lawrence was full of energy — his coat off, his sleeves turned up 
above his elbows— and was impressing upon his subjects his principles of 
a just state demand, and their first elementary ideas of natural equity ; 
for, as each man touched the pen, the unlettered token of agreement to 
their leases, he made them repeat aloud the new trilogue of the English 
Government : ' Thou shalt not burn thy widow ; thou shalt not kill thy 
daughters ; thou shalt not bury alive thy lepers ;' 1 and old greybeards, in 
the families of some of whom there was not a single widow, or a female 
blood-relative, went away chanting the dogmas of the new Moses, which, 
next year, were sternly enforced. Here I learnt my first idea of the ener- 
getic order and the rapid execution which make up the sum total of good 
administration. Here I first knew the man, who was my model, my 

1 In Hindustani :- 

; Bewa mat jalao ; 
Beti mat maro ; 
Korhi mat dabao. 


friend, and my master, till, twenty years later, I sat at his Council board 
in Calcutta, and, thirty years later, consulted him on details of the affairs 
of the Church Missionary Society, and joined his committee in opposition 
to what he believed to be the mistaken policy of a second Afghan War. 

Hercules Scott, another of John Lawrence's early assistants, also 
gives a few first impressions of this period which should be pre- 
served : — 

I had been only a few months in harness in India, and had acquired, 
therefore, only the most elementary knowledge of my duties, when I 
found myself, in May 1846, transferred to the rule of Mr. John Lawrence 
in the Trans-Sutlej States. In writing to report myself to him, I ex- 
pressed my desire that he would place me under a civilian, not under a 
military man. He acknowledged my letter in a few curt lines. 'Your 
aim,' he wrote, 'ought to be employment under a good officer, be his coat 
red or black.' With this stern but characteristic remark he directed me 
to proceed to Jullundur as assistant to the Deputy-Commissioner there. 
It was not till the close of that year that he was able to come to Jullun- 
dur, and I to make his acquaintance. I held him in .creat awe at first, a 
feeling which was intensified by his strict oversight of all the proceedings 
of his subordinates, and by a certain ruggedness of manner and exterior, 
under which, as I afterwards found, the warmest and kindliest of hearts 
lay concealed. My work must have bristled with irregularities and 
blunders, which were duly cauterised, but he made allowance for the un- 
equal combat which, as a young hand, I had endeavoured to maintain, 
and reported very kindly of me to Government. The illness of the 
Deputy-Commissioner brought me henceforward into frequent contact 
with the Commissioner. The awe with which he had inspired me soon 
wore off, and our acquaintance ripened into a thorough confidence 
and attachment. Pressing as were his own engagements, it was never 
the wrong time to apply to him for advice or guidance in carrying out 
one's duties. His grasp, both of principles and details, in fiscal, revenue, 
police, and judicial matters, was at once comprehensive and minute. 
Nothing pleased him better than to open the stores of his experience for 
our benefit. His own appetite for work was insatiable, and he expected, 
and, I think, not in vain, a like devotion from us. A drone or a shirk 
could not tarry in his sight. There were, as it appeared to me, certain 
guiding principles which ran through his whole texture, and were con- 
stantly impressed on us : duty to Government, consideration for the 
natives, order and promptitude in work, personal self-sacrifice, justice be- 
tween man and man. He illustrated these principles in his own life, and 
many of his disciples in the Punjab school learned to reflect in their own 
persons these characteristic features of their head. 


Before the energy which John Lawrence threw into his work 
difficulties seemed to fly, and he had not been in the Doab more 
than a month when, with that manly frankness and simplicity which 
marks him throughout his career, he told Frederick Currie, the 
Secretary to Government in the Foreign Department, exactly what 
he had done, what he had not done, and what he thought he would, 
one day, be able to do. That which, in other people, might be put 
down as self-assertion is in him a bare statement of fact, as far 
removed from affectation of modesty as it is from ostentation or 
display : — 

As far as I am concerned as supervisor, I could easily manage double 
the extent of country. It is on the efficiency of the executive that the 
results must depend. Of five officers nominated under me, three have 
never joined, and the other two I have had with me but four days. With 
five men present, I could manage this country in first-rate style, hill and 

plain, even though everyone, with the exception of , is wholly new to 

the duty. Mackeson may have a greater extent of territory (the Cis-Sutlej 
States) than I have, but recollect that two-thirds of his is an old country, 
which is, or ought to have been, long since settled. I only ask you to 
wait six months, and then contrast the civil management of the two 

charges After what I have said, I think you ought to give me 

Harry Lumsden, for he is a good linguist, and a steady fellow. If you 
send young civilians they cannot be of much use for the first year ; how- 
ever, do as you think best. 1 can only make the most of the instruments 
you put into my hands. 

The petition thus made was duly complied with, and Harry 
Lumsden, whose good sword has done service since then in many a 
border fight, and who was for many years one of the most dashing 
of John Lawrence's 'wardens of the marches,' soon appeared. With 
him came also Lieutenant Edward Lake, of the Bengal Engineers, 
afterwards one of the most efficient soldier-politicals in the Punjab, 
and who was now entrusted with the revenue settlement of Nurpore. 
■ I like Lake very well ; he is a nice little fellow,' John writes to his 
brother Henry ; ' but all your politicals look more to politics than to 
statistics and the internal economy of the country.' It is pleasant to 
think that four of John Lawrence's earliest assistants in the Jullundur 
Doab — Gust, Lumsden, Lake, and Hercules Scott, in spite of his 
stern rule and his insatiable appetite for work, or it may be, perhaps, 
because of them— proved his warm friends for life. 

John Lawrence had hardly finished his work in the plains when 


news reached him from the hills that the fort of Kote-Kangra had 
closed its gates, had repaired its defences, and that its determined 
leader, with a garrison of three hundred veteran Sikhs, had fired 
three cannon-shots upon the small force of Lieutenant Joseph Davy 
Cunningham, the accomplished and earnest historian of the Sikhs, 
and had declared that he would not surrender its keys unless the 
'Lion of the Punjab,' Runjeet Sing himself, returned from the dead 
and demanded them of him. 

The hill fortress which breathed this proud defiance could trace 
back its history, and that too no ignoble one, for two thousand years. 
'At a time when our ancestors were unreclaimed savages, and the 
Empire of Rome was yet in its infancy, there was a Kutoch 
monarchy, as it was called, with an organised government at 
Kangra,' l and its rulers had, ever since that time, more or less 
swayed the destinies of the surrounding hill states. The fort stands 
on a precipitous and isolated rock four hundred feet high, and is 
connected with the main range of hills only by a narrow neck of 
land, twenty yards wide. This neck is defended by strong walls 
built up against the solid rock, which has been scarped for the 
purpose, and a winding passage through seven different gateways 
gives access to the fortress. 

Fifty years before William the Conqueror had landed in England, 
Mahmud of Ghuzni, spurred on by the reputed wealth of Kangra, 
and by his fierce iconoclastic zeal, had sacked its sacred temple of 
Jowala Mukhi. In the sixteenth century, in the time of our Eliza- 
beth, the great Emperor Akbar had himself led an expedition thither, 
and, as his famous chancellor Todar Mull expressed it, ' had cut off 
the meat and left the bones,' meaning that he had taken all the 
valleys, of which the Kangra is the richest and most beautiful, and 
had left only the bare hills. Early in the present century, Sansa 
Chand, the hereditary king of the Kutoch Rajpoots, raised the 
standard of rebellion against the Mogul Emperor, recovered the 
Kangra fortress, the home of his ancestors, and, from it, began to 
conquer the surrounding hill states. The threatened mountaineers 
called in the Ghoorkas to their aid, while Sansa Chand called in the 
Sikhs to his ; and before the virgin fortress, which had never yet 
fallen by assault, Sikh and Ghoorka engaged, for the first time, in 

1 See the Kangra Report, drawn up by George Barnes, for an admirable de- 
scription, to which I am much indebted, of the fort, the people, and their history. 


deadly combat. The Sikhs won, and the wily Runjeet Sing appro- 
priated to himself the apple of discord, and from it managed to hold 
in check the whole hill country. Such was the history and such the 
situation of the fortress which now refused to open its gates to the 
British Government. 

John Lawrence was alive to the emergency, and, on May 1, 
accompanied by Harry Lumsden, he started for the scene of action. 
On his way thither he received the submission of all the hill chiefs 
and the hearty support of a few of them, among whom were the Rajas 
of Mundi and Nadoun. He found, on his arrival, that the fort was 
still holding out, though blockaded by a corps of Native Infantry 
which had been sent up a month before to take peaceful possession 
of it. Early in the century, the redoubtable fortress had held out 
successfully against the Ghoorkas for a three years' siege, and if it 
should prove now able to resist the British for as many months as 
it had resisted the Ghoorkas years, John Lawrence feared that there 
would be a renewal of the war all along the hills. So he applied to 
Wheeler, the General in command of the Division, for some heavy 
guns, and bade Harry Lumsden fix upon the best route onward from 
the Beas, where all roads stopped. The sequel shall be told as nearly 
as possible in John Lawrence's own words: — 

Additional native troops, with a pair of heavy guns, had, meantime, 
been slowly winding up to the point on the Beas which lay nearest to 
Kangra. Here the level country ended, and no such thing as a siege 
gun had ever yet been seen in the Kangra hills. There was no road, 
nothing beyond a narrow pathway. But Harry Lumsden had explored 
the proper route, and the engineers now set to work to construct a tem- 
porary road on which the guns could travel. 

Within a week, the work was accomplished, and the guns conveyed a 
distance of some forty miles into our camp, which lay at the foot of the 
hill on which the fort was situated. In the evening, a deputation from 
the Sikh garrison came out of the fort to hear our terms. The members 
three greybeards, were quiet and courteous, but determined. For several 
hours they remained talking over matters with Colonel Lawrence and 
myself. At last, as they rose to make their salaam, and were on the eve of 
departure, I suggested that they should stay and see the guns at break of 
day ascend the hill. They listened and agreed, but with a gesture which 
denoted incredulity. At four a.m. they were awakened by vociferous 
cheering. They started from their rough beds and rushed out, believing 
that it was a sally from the garrison. They were soon undeceived : for, 
a few moments later, there appeared a couple of large elephants slowly 
and majestically pulling an eighteen-pounder, tandem fashion, with a 


third pushing behind. In this manner, gun after gun wound its way 
along the narrow pathway, and, by the help of hundreds of Sepoys, safely 
rounded the sharp corners which seemed to make further progress im- 
possible. The Sikh elders looked on with amazement, but said not a 
word". When the last gun had reached the plateau, they took their leave 
and returned to the fort. In an hour the white flag was raised. The 
garrison defiled out man by man, and, throwing down their arms, quietly 
took their way to the plains. Thus passed by what might have developed 
into a very serious affair. 

While these military movements were going on and this bloodless 
victory over a redoubtable fortress was being achieved — a victory 
which, it will be seen now, was as bloodless and complete as that of 
the Collector over the Delhi village — the administration of the district 
was not neglected for a single day. The police were distributed all 
over the country, courts were established in suitable places, and the 
summary settlement of the revenue prosecuted. While Cust was finish- 
ing the work which had been begun by his chief at Jullundur and 
Hoshiarpore, and Lake was settling the revenue of Nurpore, the 
Commissioner himself managed to do all the rest, Kangra, Hurri- 
pore, Nadoun, Spiti, and Kulu. He traversed hundreds of miles of 
country in the process, and before May 1, the beginning, that is, of 
the official year, exactly two months from the date of his appoint- 
ment, and from our first occupation of the country, the whole opera- 
tion was completed. 

The personal intercourse which John Lawrence had had with 
natives in his earlier career now stood him in good stead. The reform 
which he was most bent on introducing — the substitution of a land-tax 
paid in money for one paid in kind — was a rude shock to native ideas ; 
for, from time immemorial, their ancestors had paid the state dues in 
grain. They would fain still have stood upon the old ways, and they 
came to John Lawrence, sometimes in large bodies, sometimes one by 
one, asking to be allowed to do as they had always done. The Com- 
missioner, who was resolved to carry out his project — by persuasion if 
possible, but anyhow to carry it — explained to these rigid conservatives 
the advantages of the new system, and pointed out the abuses inse- 
parably connected with the old one. The poverty of the remonstrants, 
if not their will, consented, and when the reform had once been 
introduced and its advantages perceived, there was no more wish to 
return to the old state of things. The middlemen and tax-farmers who 
preyed on the agricultural class were swept away for ever, and it was 
calculated that a relief of from fifteen to twenty per cent, had been made 


on each man's payments, while the total which found its way into the 
coffers of the state was as nearly as possible the same ! 

I well remember how Lord Lawrence, in a conversation which I had 
with him shortly before the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War, dwelt 
upon the extraordinary difficulty he had found in persuading the natives 
to give up the old system of payment in kind ; how he remarked that 
nearly all the evils to which the subject races in Turkey were exposed 
had their counterparts in India under native rule, and how he pointed 
out that the subject races of Turkey would be likely to resist most 
strongly the particular reform which lay at the root of all the others. 

That the reforms introduced by John Lawrence were generally 
beneficial is evident from the verdict of George Barnes, his successor 
in the Commissionership, given deliberately, some seven years after- 
wards, in his ' Kangra Report : ' — 

The grain payments were commuted at easy rates into money, and 
the people, after a little persuasion, were brought to accede to the inno- 
vation. I may add that this measure, effected by the Commissioner 
(John Lawrence), was attended by the most complete success. The 
settlement itself was the fairest and best in the district, and the people 
are so well satisfied with the change that they would gladly pay a higher 
revenue than revert to their old usage. Money assessment has left them 
masters within their own village areas. They may cultivate whatever 
crops they please. It has taught them habits of self-management and 
economy, and has converted them from ignorant serfs of the soil into an 
intelligent and thrifty peasantry. They appreciate the discretion with 
which they are now entrusted, and are stimulated by the prospects which 
industry holds out to them. 

It will follow from what I have already said of the history of the 
hill country and its Rajas, that it would be of prime importance to 
effect a just and satisfactory settlement of their claims. This subject 
was at once taken in hand. The circumstances of each chief were 
carefully considered. All the fiefs found in their possession were 
maintained, while they were, at the same time, freed from the military 
service and the fiscal exactions which had been the cause of so much 
vexation under Sikh rule. Any rights of independent jurisdiction 
which were found to be in existence at the time of our occupation 
were confirmed ; but John Lawrence, acting on principles which will 
be often brought before us in his subsequent career, stoutly refused to 
restore any such exceptional privileges, if they had once lapsed. A 
passage in one of his letters to Sir Frederick Currie is of special interest 

vol. 1. n 


as indicating at this early date the point on which he was to differ 
most widely from his brother Henry, when they were sitting at the 
same Council board in the Punjab : — 

I have been reading over Erskine's report on the Simla Hills. His 
idea of royal families and crowned heads is ridiculous. These Rajas 
were like the petty barons of old. They had their little castles, from 
whence they sallied out to plunder the country or each other, and from 
which they overawed the people. They ruled by the sword, and held 
their lands by the same tenure. The strong swallowed up the weak. 
The Ghoorkas would have conquered them. They called in the Sikhs, 
who drove out the Ghoorkas and conquered for themselves. The hill- 
men were glad to get rid of the Sikhs, who bullied them, and therefore 
made common cause with us. I certainly think it would be madness in 
us to give them back much of their old power and extensive possessions. 
Continue to them the jagheers held under the Sikhs, and, if they have 
done good service in the late war, make them a money present, or even 
give them an annual stipend in cash, but do not give them more power. 
The hills are far behind the plains in the intelligence of the people, and 
the chiefs are behind the people. Civilisation would certainly not pro- 
gress under their rule. Infanticide, suttee, punishment for witchcraft, are 
common among them. Besides, it is a mistake to think that by making 
Rajas and chiefs powerful you attach the country. One lac given in the 
reduction of assessments and making people comfortable and happy in 
their homes is better than three lacs given to Rajas. Introduce our 
laws, our system, our energy and forethought, and you will do real 

Another evil more deeply rooted even than the payment of taxes 
in kind, and which prevailed, more or less, over the whole of India, 
was especially rife among the Rajpoot races of the North-West and 
the jullundur Doab. The practice of female infanticide, due, in other 
parts of the world, either to simple inhumanity or to poverty, is in 
this part of India the outcome, in the main, of family pride. The 
Rajpoot deigns not to give his daughter to a member of an inferior 
subdivision of caste to himself, for he himself would lose caste 
thereby ; he dares not give her to a member of the same subdivision, 
because such connections are looked upon as incestuous. The diffi- 
culty, therefore, of procuring any eligible husband for his daughter ; 
the ruinous expense connected, according to immemorial custom, 
with the celebration of the wedding ; the suspicion with which an un- 
married woman is apt to be regarded by the members of her family ; 
and the ease with which, living in the jealous seclusion of his ancestral 


home, the father can get rid of an obnoxious addition to it ;— all 
these causes combined to overpower the voice of parental affection. 
So wholesale was the destruction of female infant life that, when the 
attention of philanthropists was first directed to it, whole village 
communities were found to be without a single girl. 

Nor was the practice confined to the Rajpoots. It was still more 
universal among the Bedis, who were a subdivision of the Khuttri 
caste and traced back their descent to the Guru Nanuk. They had 
never allowed a single female child to live, and when the Bedi of 
Oona, the head of the tribe — in fact, the spiritual head of the Sikh 
religion — was warned by John Lawrence that he must forbid infanti- 
cide throughout his jagheer, he replied, that, if the Sahib so willed it, 
he would never enter his harem again, and would influence, so far as 
he could rightly do so, others to do the same, but it was impossible for 
him to command his dependents to give up so treasured a custom. 
* You must do it or give up your lands,' rejoined John, and the stiff- 
necked old Levite acquiesced in the lesser of two evils, and did give 
up — his lands. 

Those who have never seen John Lawrence, but have accompanied 
me thus far in my efforts to reproduce the living man, can imagine the 
grim patience with which he would listen to a solemn deputation from 
the whole priestly race whose most cherished practice he was thus 
rudely threatening, and who based their petition on the proclamation 
issued by the Governor-General that all their rights and customs 
would be respected. 

These Bedis (he writes to a friend) are an extraordinary people. You 
will scarcely believe it when I tell you that they publicly petitioned me 
for permission to destroy all their female children ; which, it seems, they 
have, hitherto, invariably done. I sent for some of the most respectable 
of them, and set forth the enormity of the crime, and our detestation of 
the practice, before some hundreds of people, and ended by telling them 
that Government would not only never consent to such a villainous crime 
being perpetrated under its rule, but that we should certainly hang every 
man who was convicted of such a murder. I also told them that not a 
jagheer of theirs would be confirmed until the matter was satisfactorily 
settled. They are now collecting their elders to confer on the matter. In 
the meantime, I have issued proclamations and letters to all the chiefs, 
in which, without mentioning the Bedis, I have denounced, under the 
highest displeasure of Government and the severest penalties, infanticide, 
suttee, and the destruction of leprous persons by burying them alive or 

N 2 


throwing them into water. I will make a report on all this to Govern- 
ment directly I hear what the Bedis say. 

And those who have seen John Lawrence and enjoyed for them- 
selves the vein of humour which played round even his most serious 
talk, and relaxed the lines of his scarred and weather-beaten counte- 
nance, will not be slow to realise the gesture and the incommunicable 
something with which, in his later years — sitting perhaps amidst a 
circle of ladies — he would receive the news of the birth of a daughter 
in a family which might, perchance, be already too well stocked with 
them, and would remark, 'Ah ! those Bedis were not such bad 
fellows after all ; the only thing that I am disposed to regret in my 
Indian administration is that I was so hard upon them in the matter 
of female infanticide ! ' 

A few sentences, taken almost at random from John Lawrence's 
letters during this time — though it will be remembered that now, and 
throughout his career, they deal, in the main, with matters of detail, 
and therefore are of little interest to a subsequent generation— will 
give some idea of his impatience of a lazy or incapable subordinate ; 
of his vein of grim humour ; of the shrewdness with which he was 
able to discern in the cloud no bigger than a man's hand a danger 
which might, one day, overspread the firmament and burst in a deluge 
of ruin on India. ' I do not think,' he says, when discussing the 
possible resistance of the Kangra garrison, ' that they will hold out ; 
with the country against them and their own Durbar, it would be 
useless. However, no one can tell what fools may do.' This whole- 
some incredulity as to the limits of human folly, this ' credo quia im- 
possible,' often stood him in good stead in dealing with masses of men. 
He declines to take Runjore Sing, a Sikh, with him in his march against 
a Sikh garrison, because, as ' renter of hill-states, he had had great 
opportunities of appropriating villages, which he does not seem to 
have neglected.' When the Bedis complained that the irregular troops 
raised by us from their neighbourhood had plundered and annoyed 
them : ' I dare say they have,' remarked John, ' it would only be like 
spoiling the Egyptians.' 

As regards the impracticable assistant to whom I have already 
referred, he writes to his brother Henry — 

I had to send all 's reports back, they are so badly done. He is 

a rara avis, and says his work is killing him. A very innocent murder it 
would be ! 

And again, in another letter : — 

I really do not know what to do with . I can get little or no work 

out of him, and, with more assistance than any man in the province, he 
says he is overworked. He has a certain degree of ability, but is hard, 
violent, and without any system. He put one man in irons on the roads 
the other day for contempt of court. I wish the Governor-General 
would make him a Resident ! he is enough to provoke a rebellion. 

And, on the principle on which he always acted of never saying a 
word of blame behind a person's back which he would shrink from 
saying, if necessary, before his face, he writes to him thus : — 

My dear , I have received your letter. As I do not agree in any 

respect with the views you there lay down, I think it kinder and fairer to 
write to you, privately, on the subject before I take any public notice of 
the matter. I feel that I have nothing to reproach myself with in the late 
correspondence. I think from the day you joined the division that I 
have treated you with every consideration, and have supported you 
wherever I could. A sense of duty alone compelled me to notice your 
irregularities in the way I have done, and I do not think I could have 
said less than I did. By your account, I am altogether wrong. In my 
own judgment, I am right. But I cannot let your letter remain on my 
record unanswered ; let alone admit that you have cause for complaint. 
You may have worked hard. But I can only judge by results, and I have 
no hesitation in saying that in doing so you have, in my judgment, fallen 
far short of your own estimate. 

This is not the only letter of the kind preserved in his folios, but 
there are not many of them, for he generally managed to pass on 
assistants of this type — if not to a Residency — to some post which 
would be more congenial to them. When it was a matter of praise 
he often acted on the opposite principle. He rarely praised a man 
to his face, and hence it has sometimes been said that he failed fully 
to appreciate other people's merits. But, as I shall show hereafter, 
he was lavish enough of his praise behind their backs. 

Here is the earliest hint I have found in his papers of a danger 
which, if its meaning had been fully grasped by the authorities, might 
have done something towards averting or postponing the Indian 
Mutiny. * Government will get as many Rajpoots on the hills as it 
-can want, either for regular or irregular corps. Thousands served in 
the Sikh army and would do so in ours. I do not think that they 
will object to go anywhere or do anything. In our regular corps these 
men will be very valuable, as coming from a different part of the 


country and having different ideas and interests from our Oudh 
Sepoys. As it is now, our Sepoys are nearly all from Oudh and its 
vicinity, and the majority are Brahmins ; hence it is that, in any 
quarrel, they so readily combine. The Rajpoots here are a very fine 
people, and, having little to live on at home, they are glad to take 

In the occupations which I have described, the first three months 
of his Commissionership passed away. They were an epitome of the 
whole three years during which he was to hold the office, and they 
anticipated faithfully, on a small scale, the responsibilities of the 
Punjab Board and of the Chief Commissionership. They were 
months of hard work and rapid progress ; and, in the month of June, 
just when he might have hoped for some diminution of his twelve 
hours a day at his desk, he was taken ill with a violent attack of fever 
and ague, which drove him across the hills to recruit his strength at 
Simla, where his wife and family were then residing. His brother 
Henry had gone there before him to consult with the Governor- 
General on the affairs of the Punjab in general. But he, too, was 
worn out with his labours as Resident at Lahore, and so the already 
overworked John was, after a few weeks' rest, requested by Lord 
Hardinge to take temporary charge of his brother's onerous post at 
the capital of the Punjab, while he was also to retain his own 
Jullundur Commissionership. How he managed to combine the 
two, and to make each, in some measure, assist the other, we shall 
gather from the ensuing chapter. 



The one-eyed adventurer of the Punjab who had built up, in his long- 
career, an empire stretching frcm the point where the waters of the 
five rivers unite in one majestic stream to the eternal snows of the 
Himalayas, and, even beyond them again, to the Karakorum Range, 
and had torn away, from the Afghans on one side, and from the 
Great Mogul on the other, some of their fairest provinces, died in 
1839. It happened to be the very year in which the young English 
civilian who was, one day, to rule the fabric that he had reared, and 
to reap vastly more from the plains of the Punjab than he had ever 
cared to sow, had himself seemed stricken to the death at Etawa, 
but, as though he was reserved for something great, had determined 
not to die. Throughout his career, Runjeet Sing had found, or had 
made, plenty of work for the fiery soldiers of the Khalsa common- 
wealth. But he had also held them in check with a strong hand, 
and, with one single exception — the year 1809, when he seemed dis- 
posed to claim the Jumna instead of the Sutlej as his south-eastern 
boundary — had managed to keep on the best of terms with his 
English neighbours. Not that he was in any way blind to the future. 
Unable either to read or write, he had the insight of genius, and, on 
one occasion, as the well-known story goes, he asked to be shown 
upon a map the parts of India occupied by the English. They were 
marked in red ; and as his informant pointed successively to Madras, 
Bombay, Bengal, and the North-West Provinces, all overspread by 
that monotonous and usurping tint, he exclaimed, ' It will soon all be 
red.' 1 He closed the map, however, with a submission to the inevit- 
able which a good Muslim might have envied, and with a strong 
practical determination that, if prudence could prevent it, the evil 
should come, not in his own, but in his successor's days. 

1 Sab Lai hojaega. 


The death of Runjeet was followed by six years of anarchy. 
The strong hand had been withdrawn, and there was the scramble 
for power and for life usual on the death of an Eastern monarch. 
One after the other, his chief relatives and ministers came to the 
front, but only that each — as in the days of Zimri, Tibni and Omri, 
at Samaria, or of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, at Rome — might, 
after a brief interval, lose power and life together. ' The people that 
followed Omri prevailed against them that followed Tibni, so Tibni 
died and Omri reigned.' Such is the inimitably pregnant sentence 
which sums up, better than pages of narrative could do, the fortunes 
of an Eastern dynasty, and often also of an Eastern people. 

The priest who slew the slayer, 
And shall himself be slain, 

is, perhaps, an equally pregnant description of the career of nine out 
of ten of those who aspire to rule such states as Lahore was then, or 
as Cabul was then and is still. At last, Duleep Sing, a son of Runjeet 
of tender years, and now best known to fame as an English gentle- 
man devoted to English sport on the most royal scale, had been named, 
by acclamation, successor to his father. But to proclaim a child the 
temporal ruler of the Khalsa commonwealth was, of course, to give 
the power for many years to come to his intriguing mother, the Rani 
Chunda, and to Lai Sing, her reigning paramour. 

But Queen-mother, and boy King, and effeminate vizier, all found 
that they reigned rather than governed, and that too only on suffer- 
ance of the Khalsa army. It was an army turbulent, enthusiastic, 
fanatical, not knowing what it was to be beaten, composed of some 
eighty thousand men, trained by French and Italian generals, and 
supplied with the best artillery then known. Fearing the reckless 
fury of their soldiery, the Sirdars, as I have already shown, had, in 
self-defence, turned it against the English, and the four battles, fought 
within a space of two months, of the Sutlej campaign, if they proved 
to the Khalsa army that they had at length found their betters, proved 
also to the English that the Sikh was very different to any foe they 
had hitherto met. 

We began the campaign (says John Lawrence) as we have begun 
every campaign in India before and since, by despising our foes ; but we 
had hardly begun it before we learned to respect them, and to find that 
they were the bravest, the most determined, and the most formidable 
whom we had ever met in India. Hitherto, we had found in all our wars 


that we had only to close with our enemies, when, however overwhelming 
might be the odds against us, victory was certain. But, in this campaign, 
we found that the Sikhs not only stood to and died at their guns, but 
that their infantry, even after their guns had been lost, were undismayed 
and were still willing to contest the victory with us. 

With such heroes — the heroes of Ferozeshuhr and Sobraon — 
Sir Henry Hardinge was willing to conclude peace on equitable condi- 
tions. Their independence was left to them ; the claims, such as they 
were, of the young Maharaja, of the Maharani, and of her lover, who 
had done so much to betray the cause of the commonwealth in the late 
war, were duly recognised, and, for the next nine months, an English 
Resident, with ten thousand men at his back, was to be stationed, by 
the express request of the Punjab Government, at Lahore. His 
duties were of the most delicate kind. To curb the turbulence and 
cut down the numbers of the angry soldiery ; to help the Durbar to 
bring contentment out of discontent and order out of chaos ; to 
enable the Sikh Government by the end of the year to stand alone, 
and so to give the brave Sikh nation one more chance ; — such was 
the noble but the thankless task imposed upon him. That the chance 
was to be a bona fide one, that we were not waiting for a more con- 
venient opportunity, and that our moderation was not merely dic- 
tated by our necessities, the strongest guarantee possible was given 
by the selection of the person who was to act as Resident. The best 
man in all India for the purpose, the chivalrous champion of native 
states, the protector of all who were down simply because they were 
so, the man who was as gentle and considerate as he was high-spirited 
and brave, was sent to Lahore by Sir Henry Hardinge to fill the post. 
And, if Troy could have been saved by any right hand, if any native 
state could have been rescued, in spite of itself, from that uniform 
red colour which was overspreading the peninsula from the Himalayas 
to Cape Comorin, it would have been by the right hand of Sir Henry 

He set to work with a will at once. With the consent of the 
Durbar, he reduced the number of the soldiery, prevailed on some 
of them to re-enlist in our service, checked the desire for vengeance 
among those who had long suffered at the hands of their chiefs, and 
suppressed a disturbance at Lahore, known as the ' cow riot,' which 
might have grown into a formidable rising, at the cost of the life of 
one offender only. The questions connected with the slaughter of the 
cow are, as I have shown in a previous chapter, a standing difficulty 


with our Indian administrators. 'As long,' said a native chief to 
Captain Eastwick, ' as you English kill the cow and cut its skin, so 
long there will be an impassable gulf between us ; ' and the Sikh, 
though he had thrown off much of his Hinduism, had retained all, 
perhaps more than all, of the Hindu reverence for the sacred animal. 

But Henry Lawrence had been called away to Simla, before he 
had well begun his uphill work, and his mantle was to fall for the 
time upon the broad and willing back of his brother John. It is no 
disparagement at all to John Lawrence to s.iy that the work of the 
Residency at Lahore was not naturally so congenial to him as it would 
have been to Henry. He had less sympathy with the native aristo- 
cracy by whom he was surrounded ; partly, perhaps, because his view 
of them was too near and too clear ; partly, also, I think, because 
he was less able than his brother to distinguish between those vices 
which were the natural and necessary result of the system in which 
they had been brought up, and those which might justly be looked 
upon as the result of individual depravity. In any case, he had a 
less enthusiastic belief in the possibility of a satisfactory reorganisa- 
tion of the country under native rule. It is all the more to his credit, 
therefore, that he threw himself into his work as though he did 
thoroughly believe in it. What would have been a delicate and 
difficult operation enough in Henry's hands was, necessarily, even 
more so in his ; for he was only ' acting ' for his brother, and was 
bound in honour to carry out that brother's general views, even where 
they most differed from his own. Simla, moreover, was not so remote 
but that Henry, on the strength of the information regularly supplied 
to him by his deputy, could have a voice in every important matter 
at Lahore as it turned up ; and, conscious of the general difference 
of view between himself and his brother, he was, perhaps, more ready 
to detect opposition where none was either intended or existed. The 
disadvantages inherent in a system of divided responsibility were 
thus intensified ; for Henry was near enough to criticise or overrule, 
not near enough to give present help in matters of immediate diffi- 

From August to December 1846 I have been able — and it is only 
at this period of his life that it is possible to do so— to follow John 
Lawrence's doings in three different sets of letters ; one letter of each 
set written almost daily. The first set consists of official letters, 
written with much care and detail to the Government of India ; the 
second, of demi-official letters to his friend Sir Frederick Currie ; the 


third are private, and were dashed off hastily, with little regard to 
style or even grammar, to his brother Henry. The more important 
events which are coming on prevent my giving more than a few ex- 
tracts from these, and I take them, by preference, from the private 
letters, since they are the only set of the kind which have come into 
my hands. Here are portions of three of them, written, from Lahore, 
as will be observed, on three successive days, almost immediately 
after he had taken charge there. They are the result of first im- 
pressions only, but they have the freshness peculiar to first impres- 
sions, and, taken together, they give a fair picture of the selfish and 
intriguing Sirdars, who, if they hated the English much, hated each 
other more ; of the profligate Maharani and her vizier, Lai Sing ; of 
the efforts made by the acting Resident to obtain for the troops their 
arrears of pay, to bring the finances into a satisfactory condition, to 
infuse some little public spirit into the Government, and so to give 
the country a chance of standing by itself when the time came for 
our troops to leave. I will only add that no mere selection can give 
any adequate idea of the energy and the ability, the tact and the 
temper, the loyalty to his brother, and the absolute unselfishness with 
which a study of the three sets of letters, as a whole, would show 
John Lawrence to have thrown himself into his uncongenial and 
unenviable task : — 

Lahore : August 26, 1846. 
My dear Hal, — I have little time to write you long yarns of affairs 
here ; the work keeps me busy all day, and the heat is so excessive that 
I feel I have as much to do as I can well get through. Matters are very 
quiet. The discipline and order among the troops is greater than any- 
thing of the kind that I recollect, and the town is cleaner and healthier 
than perhaps any city in India. We ride out daily, but hardly meet any 
of the disbanded soldiery ; indeed, I hear they are all quiet at home. 
I cannot see why Raja Lai Sing should not be able to carry on the 
government when the army leaves ; should he fail, it must be his own 
fault. I do not think that he would find much difficulty in conciliating 
the Sirdars if he would only set about it honestly. He promises every- 
thing, but, I fear, is not anxious to do what Government wishes, not so 
much from any wish to oppose Lord Hardinge, as because he really thinks 
his only chance of maintaining himself is the policy he has hitherto 
pursued to the chiefs. He is despised for his connection with the Rani, 
and hated also. But I am not at all sure that his successor, be he who 
he may, would be much more popular. He is evidently a good deal 
alarmed at my advent, as well as at my allowing some of the chiefs to. 


visit me. This, however, will do him good ; so long as he had, or 
thought he had, all the hearing to himself he was comparatively careless. 
I told him that I was his real friend, and that, though I listened to all, 
I was not ready to believe all I heard ; and that, moreover, if what I did 
learn was unsatisfactory, I should not conceal it from him. The Maha- 
rani is very well ; she is said to divide her favours between the Raja and 
two of the servants of the palace, and to be very charitable to the fakirs, 
probably by way of making up for such peccadilloes. 

Lahore : August 27. 
My dear Hal, — Things are in statu qiio here. The Durbar are in 
some little tribulation, consulting together privately. The conduct of the 
Raja is said to have improved lately, especially since I arrived, but the 
chiefs give him little credit, saying it is only owing to us that he thus acts. 
Some people say that he will not be sorry when the army leaves, as his 
authority will then be more complete, and he can then act as he pleases. 
No doubt at times he feels our interference irksome, but, on the whole, 
I feel certain that he dreads our departure, and so does the Rani. I had 
a long conversation with a very clever fellow, a follower of Runjore Sing, 
whom I knew in the Jullundur Doab as possessing the full confidence of 
that chief. He says that all the chiefs are against the vizier, Lai Sing, 
but that, so long as we are here, they will do nothing, and, indeed, per- 
haps not when we go, for that both they and the army are afraid of 
another war, but that they hate Lai Sing. I asked him what they wished, 
and why they did not come to see me and state their grievances, to which 
he replied that, if they did so, directly the army left, Lai Sing would be 
revenged on them. I asked him what would satisfy the chiefs, and, if 
left to themselves, what they would propose ; he said that, until the 
Maharaja was old enough to act for himself, the chiefs would wish an 
officer to be stationed here to mediate between them and the vizier ; that 
the vizier should not be allowed to confer jagheers at his pleasure and 
disgrace the old chiefs ; and that, on public matters, they should be con- 
sulted, and that he should not possess the whole power. He said that 
the Sikhs, as a nation, would not submit to Lai Sing, and that it was only 
from fear of us that the people behaved well. 

August 28. 
My dear Hal, — I am glad you are not to die, though I did not know 
I had told anyone you would do so. Matters are quiet enough here. 
Every day I see more and more of the bitter feeling of the Sirdars against 
Lai Sing. He takes great precautions, and never moves without a strong 
guard, and is armed himself. This morning he was with us at the Shali- 
mar Gardens, and I observed a double-barrelled pistol in his belt, loaded 
and capped. Nevertheless, I think he will be assassinated some day, 
and, perhaps, this would be the best thing that could happen for the 


Punjab, for the chiefs would then either set up Sirdar Lena Sing or 
Chutter Sing ; whereas Lai Sing could only be set aside by our strong 
arm, and, if allowed to live in the Punjab, would be the centre of disaffec- 
tion, and the Rani would not give him up. They had a slight row the 
other day, but she said she would follow him over the world, and give up 
everything for him. He is a sad liar, and yet has ability ; and, if he 
could only be persuaded to act fairly, might weather the storm. I 
observed to-day that he paid great attention to General Ram Sing, who 
has the character of being a man of ability and action. A few such 
soldiers of the Sikhs round him would make a great difference in his 
position. But think well over what I said yesterday about limiting the 
vizier's power. He will not stand without it. 

I like Sir John Littler much ; he keeps up excellent good discipline, 
and is a fine fellow. I don't think I ever knew the sepoys so well behaved. 
We should have little difficulty in the event of a war hereafter. The 
opinion of us as rulers is greatly changed. The only evil is that when we 
get a country things go smoothly, for the people see the benefit of the 
change, and are satisfied. But as they die off, or forget the olden days 
of trouble and misrule, they feel slight twitches from our shoe pinching, 
and get discontented. The Jullundur is going on beautifully. Cust and 

Lake will, I think, turn out good officers ; will never be worth his 

salt. He is too old to learn. Take care of the wee wife. 

A few days later, moved by the ever-increasing difficulties which 
he saw in the way of our leaving the country entirely to itself, but still 
most anxious to avoid annexation, John Lawrence came gradually 
round to the idea of our managing the country for the young Maha- 
raja till he came of age. 

September 8. 
I am convinced that matters cannot be carried on if we leave the 
country. The only plan which is both just and politic, so far as I can see 
my way, is that we put the country in Chancery — that is, manage it until 
the boy Maharaja arrive at years of discretion. This would be agreeable, 
I believe, to the chiefs. 

The freedom with which, in other letters, he describes the rascality 
which was going on around him, and expresses his opinion of it, seems 
to have given some offence to his brother, and, possibly, also in higher 
quarters still, and he thus defends himself : — 

September 13. 

My dear Hal,— Edwardes starts to-night, and will be at Jummoo on 
the 1 5th. I hope Lumsden will be back in a couple of days, for the mis- 
cellaneous work of the town is full as much as one man can do. I have 

1 9o LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. 1846-48 

written to-day a short letter to Government. I have given as few opinions 
as possible. However, many of the facts are literally opinions, and that, 
too, the opinions of others. I have been looking over my letters, and do 
not see any greater variety in my opinions than a man should be allowed 
in politics. If no margin is allowed, one would have a difficult job. I 
said I thought that the Raja's great difficulty was the chiefs, and that if 
he could manage them he might do. So I think now ; but he has not 
done this, and, what is worse, has not done what he might in other 
respects. I feel convinced now that he will fail ; but his failure will arise 
from his own deficiencies, and not from exterior influences. He is, in 
some respects, anxious to do well, but takes the wrong course, and instead 
of meeting advice with argument, simply tells lies. Like an ostrich, he 
thinks, if his head is hidden, all the rest of his body is covered ; so he 
thinks that, if we don't know what he does, all will go well. I suppose 
this Kashmere affair will alter the policy of our Government towards the 
Punjab. I am getting very fair returns of the revenue to-day. I have 
got about twenty lacs. In a week more I shall have them all. 

Should we find it necessary to take the country, the plan will be to 
make a separate arrangement with Dewan Moolraj, and allow him to 
continue Dewan under us. He pays the Sikhs twenty-one lacs and keeps 
up a large army. We can get no returns in detail for that country, for 
none have ever been rendered. It is said to yield him forty lacs at least. 
As he would no longer require the same army, he could afford to pay us 
thirty lacs without difficulty. He had agreed, I understand, to give 
twenty-six when Jowahir Sing was killed. An arrangement of this kind 
would, I think, simplify matters if we take the Punjab. I am not advo- 
cating that policy, but the contrary. I am only thinking how we could 
manage if we do. I am still hard at work, never moving off my chair for 
ten hours a day. I really do not know what would become of this country 
if they had not me to look after it. 

With what frankness and ability John Lawrence laid his views on 
these and similar subjects before Government, and what a statesman- 
like grasp he showed even then of questions, which one day would 
become burning questions, and which he would, himself, have the 
chief responsibility of deciding, an extract from a long and elaborate 
despatch, dated September 11, will indicate : — 

Feeling convinced that such must be the result of Government either 
withdrawing the army or maintaining it at Lahore under the present 
system, it is perhaps stepping beyond the line of my duty to suggest a 
remedy. At the risk of such being the opinion, I would recommend for 
the consideration of the Right Honourable the Governor-General, the 
expediency of Government undertaking the management of the country 


in trust for the young Maharaja until he arrives at manhood. It will not, 
I venture to say, be politic, it will not be just, that we leave it to fall into 
anarchy. It will not, I conceive, be eventually popular with the Sikhs, 
who are strongly national, that we take the country ourselves. Those 
who would feel the advantages of our rule, who estimate the blessings of 
security to life and property, of perfect toleration to religion, of our en- 
couragement of trade and agriculture, would, no doubt, rejoice ; but there 
are many powerful classes who cannot fail to be inimical to our rule. 
Such are the chiefs and great holders of rent-free lands, the prfests of 
both persuasions, Hindu and Mohammedan, and, in particular, all people 
who live by service. To them our system affords not the means of liveli- 
hood, or, if it does, it is not in the way they have lived. 

Our very existence, in my judgment, depends on our gradually reduc- 
ing the power and consequence of the chiefs of a country, and, even when 
we grant them their jagheers for life, we curtail their power, by obliging 
to submit to rules and systems those who have never hitherto recognised 
any law but their own will and pleasure. Under the native system, a jag- 
heerdar is a little sovereign with the powers of life and death. He collects 
the revenues, levies customs, holds courts of justice — in short, he is the 
baron of olden time. So long as he keeps well with the court, or has 
power to resist it, he is irresponsible to man. But all this changes under 
our rule : He can only collect his revenue according to law ; he is pro- 
hibited from seizing his people's cattle or their children, and he is 
arraigned and punished for acts which, but a short time before, he com- 
mitted with impunity. Can he be otherwise than dissatisfied with our 
rule ? In the same way the soldier longs for native rule. He is not fit 
or inclined for our service. His trade is gone ; he is too old or lazy to 
learn a new one. Crowds of irregular horse and footmen are thrown out 
of employment and swell the number of the discontented. Even the men 
of the pen complain. The large fortunes which they accumulated under the 
native system are not to be had under ours. The collector of a district, 
the clerk of an office of account, who, under us, will, by steady conduct 
and hard work, rise from twenty to two hundred rupees a month, will, in 
the Punjab, if he is a clever fellow, accumulate lacs. Imamuddin, now 
the rebel Governor of Kashmere, whose father began with nothing, has 
in the course of ten years accumulated a crore of rupees. . . . Even those 
who benefit most under our rule are seldom satisfied. They forget the 
evils of days which have gone by, and only feel the petty annoyances of 
those now passing. Merchants and bankers who, under our rule, make 
rapid fortunes and may be said to live and flourish untaxed, are often loud 
in their complaints on the most trivial and even unreasonable subjects. 
I mention this, lest we may be led away by the feeling which certainly, 
so far as I can judge, generally exists among most classes in the Punjab 
in favour of our assuming the sovereignty of the country. 

192 LIFE OF LORD LA WRENCE. 1846-48 

Day by day, John Lawrence was in the habit of receiving visits 
from the leading Sirdars — each one of them at deadly feud with the 
Regent and with most of his brother Sirdars, and each having selfish 
views of his own to serve ; and from these interviews, using the 
powers of discernment which long intercourse with the natives in the 
Delhi district had given him, he managed to pick up a complete 
knowledge of all the twists and turns of the tortuous policy of the 
Lahore Government, and of all the conflicting interests which were 
represented in the Durbar. He met duplicity, not by counter-duplicity, 
but, as he invariably did, by the most absolute straightforwardness, 
and then, as ever in our dealings with the natives of India, it has been 
straightforwardness, and not duplicity, statesmanship and not diplo- 
macy, which, wherever it has been employed, has turned out to be the 
best policy in the end. 

John Lawrence's letters to Government contain a gallery of portraits, 
drawn from the life, of every leading chief at Lahore ; and space 
alone forbids my reproducing them here. When Lai Sing, who was 
the chief actor in all the court amours, and scandals, and intrigues, 
came to see John Lawrence, he found, to his extreme surprise, that 
his host knew as much about them as he did himself. It was the story 
of Benhadad and Elisha over again. ' The prophet that is in Israel,' said 
the servants of the puzzled King of Syria to their master, ' telleth the 
King of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.' In 
vain did the Regent question his servants as to the means by which 
John Lawrence knew everything that was going on. Jan Larens sub 
janta (knows everything) had been the spontaneous exclamation of 
the native of Paniput twelve years before, and Jan Larens sub janta 
was the only explanation that could be offered now to their bewildered 
master by the servants of the palace at Lahore. 

A few short quotations from his letters will illustrate what I have 
said as to his knowledge of all that was going on inside the palace and 
outside of it. The Maharani had frequent quarrels and frequent 
reconciliations with Lai Sing, her lover. ' In a transport of rage,' at 
some fancied neglect of his, 

she seized a jug of water and sent it at his head. Old Mungala, hearing 
the row, and not knowing what it might proceed from, gave the alarm, 
and when the ladies of the household rushed in, they saw the Raja escap- 
ing across the terrace with his broken head. He was very melancholy 
that day, and could eat no food ; they have, however, since made it all 
up. . . . Yesterday an Afghan stabbed a woman of the town in some dis- 


pute, then a tailor who seized him, and then wounded himself. He is 
dead ; the other two are not expected to live. . . . The Raja is more at 
home at such intrigues than other matters of public weal. No one in the 
Punjab will support him but the Maharani, and she, against her better 
judgment. He rubbed her all over with rose-water, so the ' Court 
Circular' tells me, on the day of the Dussehra. People have an idea 
here that the Raja is our creature. I have repeatedly told them the very 
words you use in your letter — namely, that we appointed him because the 
Rani selected him. I believe the Raja is more afraid of me than anyone, 
and yet I feel I can do little. ... I attended Bhai Ram Sing's funeral 
yesterday, accompanying the body to the place of cremation. People say 
he has left fifty lacs of rupees, a large portion of which was conveyed to 
Benares previous to hostilities breaking out. It is usual on these occa- 
sions to wrap the body in Kashmere shawls, which are burnt with it. 
None of his wives or heirs would produce the necessary number, though 
it is said the Bhai has left many hundred ; at last the Raja gave three, 
Dewan Moolraj one, and the family three old ones. So much for accu- 
mulating wealth at the expense of one's honour, and honesty, that a man's 
greedy heirs may deny a trifle at the funeral ! . . . The day Moolraj took 
his leave privately, he personally renewed the offer which he made through 
his vakil. I told him that Sahibs never took bribes or presents. This 
appeared to surprise him ; and he asked me rather pointedly if none of 
us did so. I said, ' Not one in a hundred, and that one is not worth 
bribing ; for, depend on it, he has neither influence nor character.' He 
seemed puzzled a good deal, and told me that he had, hitherto, had little 
to do with us, and that for the future he was our fast friend, and ready to 
do our bidding. 

The general conclusion arrived at by John Lawrence, as the 
result of his daily interviews and of his acute observation, was not 
complimentary or reassuring, but it was true. c There is not, in my 
judgment, the slightest trust to be placed in any person or any party 
here. There is an utter want of truth and honour in all ; every man 
is ready to plot, to intrigue, to cabal against his neighbour — there is 
no oath and no bond which they will not take, and take in order to 
be the better able to deceive.' 

While there were these chronic and ever-increasing causes for 
dissatisfaction in the Punjab proper, the iniquitous arrangement by 
which Kashmere and its ill-fated inhabitants were to be transferred 
without their consent, as though they were so many logs of wood, to 
Golab Sing, a Dogra Rajpoot, who had nothing in common with 
them, was not running smoothly, and, at one time, threatened to 
involve us in serious military operations. There was a feud of long 

VOL. I. O 


standing between Imamuddin, the existing ruler of Kashmere under 
the Lahore Durbar, and Golab Sing, whom we had practically bound 
ourselves to put in his place. Willing to give up so lucrative a post 
to no one, least of all to his private foe, and secretly encouraged, as 
we discovered shortly afterwards, by Lai Sing, who had been a party 
to the arrangement, Imamuddin refused to obey the orders of the 
Durbar, picked a quarrel with one of the chief officers who had been 
deputed to take over the country, killed him, and drove off his 

Incensed at the breach of the treaty, and fearing whereunto these 
things might grow, Lord Hardinge, through the medium of John 
Lawrence, called peremptorily on the Durbar to fulfil its obligations 
and drive out Imamuddin. The Durbar, at first, affected to dis- 
believe the story. They made excuses, and procrastinated as best 
they could. But John Lawrence was firm, and compelled them to 
do what was naturally so distasteful to them. 'Tej Sing,' he says, 
' has been loth to march. I believe he is an arrant coward, and, but 
for us, would not move an inch. I went and comforted him, telling 
him he would gain a great name and our favour with very little 

At last, seven thousand Sikhs were collected together and crossed 
the Ravi under John's own eye. 

I saw the last corps crossing early this morning (October 2). The 
Sikhs put their men over a river with greater facility than ours do. The 
men went readily enough, but I had to drive the Sirdars regularly out of 
the city. The men behaved exceedingly well. I had not the slightest 
trouble with them. The Sirdars behaved equally ill : a more wretched 
set of fellows I never saw. Runjore Sing and one or two others have not 
yet started ; they are looking out for good omens, and I send a sowar 
twice a day to inquire whether they are propitious. 

But the sight of military movements roused, as always, John's 
military instincts. The old ambition, repressed by his sister and by 
the force of circumstances, was still strong within him, and he threw 
out a feeler on the subject to his friend Currie : — 

October 3. 
If Government wish it, I should be delighted to go up to Sealkote or 
with Tej Sing. I should like nothing better. I wish I had the com- 
mand ; I would soon settle our friend the Sheikh. But Lord Hardinge 
may think that soldiering is not my business, and perhaps I cannot do 


better than stay here and keep the Durbar in order. Nothing will be 
done by them without our constraining them to do it. 

Meanwhile John Lawrence was reluctantly coming to the con- 
viction that the Sheikh Imamuddin was, all the time, acting under 
secret instructions from Lahore ; and if so, Lai Sing would, of 
course, do his best to thwart the expedition and even reverse its 
object. So it was arranged that Henry Lawrence should return 
from Simla, and, accompanying the Sikh army with a small force of 
his own, should endeavour to keep it up to the mark. Herbert 
Edwardes was to do the same with Golab Sing, who, as it seemed, 
was anxious to meet with opposition that he might have the better 
excuse for plundering his new subjects. We had, indeed, little 
reason to be proud of our nominee. ' Well known as he is, both in 
Jullundur and Lahore,' says John Lawrence, 'nobody has ever yet 
been heard to say a word in his favour.' — ' He is the worst native 
I have ever come in contact with,' says Herbert Edwardes, who was 
closeted with him daily, 'a bad king, a miser, and a liar.' — 'He is 
avaricious and cruel by nature,' says a third witness — who had the 
best opportunities of judging — 'deliberately committing the most 
horrible atrocities for the purpose of investing his name with a horror 
which shall keep down all thoughts of resistance to his power.' 
Such was the man whom, as ill luck would have it, it was our busi- 
ness now to place by means of Sikh arms, against the wishes of the 
Sikhs, and, a fortiori, against the wishes of his hapless subjects that 
were to be, on the throne of the loveliest country in the world. And 
poor Henry Lawrence, who, from the most chivalrous but mistaken 
of motives, had been led into advocating the arrangement, often 
found himself very hard put to it to defend ' his friend Golab,' as 
John humorously calls him, from the candid criticisms of his best 
friends, and from the scruples of his own conscience. It was an 
unpalatable business enough, and the only consolation was that the 
Sheikh whom he was to displace was little better : ' ambition, pride, 
cruelty, and intrigue, strangely mixed up with indolence, effeminacy, 
voluptuousness, and timidity ' — these were the chief characteristics, 
as drawn by one who knew him well, of Imamuddin. There was 
little indeed to choose between them. ' If Golab Sing flayed a chief 
alive,' says John Lawrence, ' Imamuddin boiled a Pundit to death : 
they are certainly a pair of amiables.' 

The expedition, when it was once fairly launched under Henry 
Lawrence's guidance, went well enough. He knew that there was 

o 2 


treachery rampant behind him at Lahore, and, that it was lurking 
among the troops who accompanied him. But a whisper in the ear 
of Lai Sing's vakil, that, if aught happened to him, his brother John, 
whose force of character Lai knew too well, would immediately 
occupy the fort, put Lai Sing himself into confinement, and seize the 
person of the young Maharaja, removed all danger from that quarter. 
Henry Lawrence's own force of will and energy did the rest. Ima- 
muddin surrendered at the very moment when the Sikh troops who 
had been sent against him were debating whether they should not go 
over to his side, and all parties returned amicably to Lahore, where 
the Sheikh, who had not presented any balance-sheet for years, was 
to give an account of his stewardship, to pay up and disband his 
troops, and to justify his hostile acts. Willing to act on Lai Sing's 
instructions while it suited his own purposes to do so, Imamuddin 
had no intention of suffering for him in silence, and on the way down 
to Lahore he produced the secret orders on which he had, all along, 
been acting. 

The real offender, the Regent Lai Sing, was now, on December 
2, brought to trial before his own ministers and the leading Sirdars, 
in the presence of five British Commissioners— Sir Frederick Currie, 
Sir John Littler, Colonel Goldie, and the two Lawrences. It was 
a great state trial, striking enough in its antecedents, its surroundings, 
and its results. The production in court of the papers signed by 
Lai Sing himself, his lame denials, his condemnation by his own 
ministers, his solemn deposition, the outburst of grief on the part of 
the Maharani when she learned that she was to part for ever not only 
with her vizier but her lover, the departure of Lai Sing as a prisoner 
from the tent which he had entered as a prince, and his removal, 
without a drop of bloodshed or a symptom of a riot, from the Sikh 
capital to the British frontier station of Ferozepore, — these were 
some of the sensational incidents in the trial. 

But the consequences were even more remarkable. For the 
council of eight Sirdars who assumed the government in Lai Sing's 
place, when they found that we were determined to leave the country, 
unless our control was to be complete — in other words, unless the 
whole administration of the Punjab was submitted to the supervision 
of the British Resident, who was to act through the Durbar, and 
when the young Maharaja came of age was to restore to it its absolute 
independence — the whole body of Sirdars and ' pillars of the state,' 
fifty-one in number, came, and, without one dissentient voice, 


implored us to remain on our own terms, And thus, by the treaty 
of Byrowal, in accordance with the wishes of the chiefs themselves, 
and the assent, however grudgingly given, of the Queen-mother, 
Henry Lawrence found himself installed for eight years the supreme 
ruler of the Punjab. 

The new arrangement gave him something like free scope for his 
energy and philanthropy. Hitherto, he had been bound hand and 
foot, and could only offer advice to those who had stopped their ears, 
or could do so, if the advice given was unpleasant Henceforward, 
he was invested by treaty ' with an unlimited authority ' in every de- 
partment of the state, and he, forthwith, drew around him a band of 
assistants who were united to him by bonds of personal attachment 
and sympathy, the like to which has never been seen in India. The 
names of George Lawrence, Herbert Edwardes., John Nicholson, 
Edward Lake, James Abbott, Arthur Cocks, Lewin Bowring, Harry 
Lumsden, Reynell Taylor, George Macgregor, Richard Pollock, and 
John Becher, have, every one of them, become more or less historical, 
and most of them will occur repeatedly in the course of this bio- 
graphy They worked now with a will, under Henry Lawrence, to 
remedy the worst abuses of the Sikh administration, in the generous 
hope that the last extremity of annexation might be avoided. They 
worked with equal devotion when that annexation had become an 
accomplished fact, and when their beloved chief had become the 
head of the Punjab Board of Administration. When the Board was 
broken up, recruited by a goodly number of men who were almost as 
much attracted by the widely different gifts of the younger, as they 
themselves had been by those of the elder brother, they worked on, 
with undiminished zeal, under John Lawrence, as Chief Commissioner. 
When the mutiny broke out they were still to stand shoulder to 
shoulder — if such a phrase may be used of men who were hundreds 
of miles apart, and who rarely looked upon a white face — were to 
carry on the administration of the province as if it were in a time of 
profound peace, and to furnish the means of crushing the danger far 
beyond its limits. And, once more, they have ruled since then, in one 
shape or another, in the most widely scattered posts and with the 
most signal success, nearly the whole of India. 

The treaty of Byrowal, which gave Henry Lawrence so splendid 
a position, enabled his brother John to return at length to his proper 
charge in the Jullundur Doab. Moved by affection for his brother, 
and by his public spirit, he had, for nine long months, cut himself off 


from his wife and family, and, during five of them — from August to 
December — had thrown himself ungrudgingly into the work at Lahore. 
A domestic event of much interest had occurred during his absence, 
in the birth, at Simla, on October 1, 1846, of his eldest son John. 
His enforced absence from his wife at such a time was a great trial to 
him, and, apart from this, he had been chafing under the restraints 
and the hopelessness of the task imposed upon him ; all the more so, 
because he was conscious that his assistants at Jullundur, being new 
to their work, could not, with all their zeal, be equal to duties which 
would have taxed the abilities of the most experienced heads in the 

Lahore is not a satisfactory place (he had written to Currie as far back 
as November 4) ; I shall not be sorry when I am allowed to leave it. 
Pray let me know if I may return to the Jullundur when the Sheikh is 
well in hand, and my brother comes back. I am ready to do what 
Government wants, but, personally, I prefer my work there. It is a new 
country, and my assistants need looking after ; and I want to put my 
stamp on it, that in after times people may look back and recall my 
Raj with satisfaction. No portion of our Empire promises better than it 

It was a bold wish, or rather a prophecy : one of those pregnant 
prophecies which, when uttered by such a man, tend to bring about 
their own fulfilment. It was fulfilled, not in the Jullundur Doab 
alone, where, within two years of the time when the words were 
written, John Lawrence found that, while war was raging in all other 
parts of the Punjab, he was able to preserve almost unbroken peace ; 
nor, again, in the wider field of the Punjab alone, where his name 
is still the name which stands absolutely by itself as a ruling power 
among the natives, — but, in its measure also over the whole of India. 
Almost as I write these words (May 21, 1880) I see, quoted in the 
1 Times,' the letters of several Indian Rajas, who, though they were 
unconnected with any of the provinces directly ruled by him, send 
their contributions to the ' Lawrence Memorial Fund,' accompanied 
by glowing tributes to his worth. One of them — the Raja Sheoraj 
Sing of Kashipore — uses these memorable words : ' We have learned 
with deep regret the lamentable death of Lord Lawrence, the ablest 
and wisest of the rulers India ever had. His impartial justice and 
wise administration are so deeply impressed on our hearts that they 
can scarcely be effaced. It must be our duty, therefore, to pay our 
tribute of honour to the memory of so eminent a statesmen, who 


restored peace to our country and happiness to its people in one of 
its most critical moments, and strengthened the ties of the union of 
England with India by the display of unparalleled wisdom, foresight, 
justice, and courage.' Was ever the wish of a young man that he 
might ' put his stamp on the country,' and that ' the natives might in 
after times look back upon his Raj with satisfaction ' more abundantly, 
more triumphantly, realised ? 

When John Lawrence got back to Jullundur he found the settle- 
ment of the revenue actively progressing under the supervision of 
George Christian, a young man on whom he had cast a covetous eye 
at Lahore as one capable of great things. The first notice of him I 
find in the papers before me is at the time when Imamuddin had just 
surrendered and was returning amicably with us — too amicably, as 
Christian thought — to Lahore, and is highly characteristic of the writer. 
4 Christian,' says John Lawrence, ' is going about asking, " Is no one 
to be hanged ? " and seems melancholy that echo answers, " No one."' 
And the advice John Lawrence gives him before entering on his 
settlement work is even more characteristic : ' I expect to be in Jul- 
lundur by December at the latest, but should I not, mind you assess 
low ; if you don't I shall be your enemy for life ; and indeed, what 
is worse, you will be your own. Let nothing tempt you to assess 
high.' George Barnes, another very able officer, whose Report on 
Kangra I have already quoted, was appointed, at the same time, to 
the revenue settlement in that district, while Cust and Lake and 
Hercules Scott were rapidly losing the only reproach which could 
fairly be levelled at them — the only reproach which is sure always to 
mend itself — that of youth and inexperience. 

But John Lawrence now found himself face to face with the great 
difficulty which was to meet him again in the Punjab — the treatment 
of the feudatories of the dispossessed government. What was the 
question, and how did he deal with it ? It will be well to make the 
case as clear as possible at once, and to put it, as nearly as may be, 
in John Lawrence's own words. 

Most of the land in the Jullundur Doab, as in other parts of the 
Punjab, was held by jagheerdars, or feudatories, of the Sikh con- 
querors who had ousted the Mogul. The whole territory had been 
ceded by the treaty of Umritsur to the British Government, and it 
was within our right as conquerors, due regard being had to justice 
and policy, to deal with it as we thought best. It was, of course, 
necessary that the province should pay the cost of its occupation and 


management, and the question now was how this end could be best 
secured. It was impossible to increase the land tax, the great source 
of revenue in India, for its incidence was already too heavy for the 
scanty means of the masses. In fact, we had already largely reduced 
it. There seemed therefore to be only one course open to us, and 
that was to reduce the holdings of the feudatories. Most of them 
had held their fiefs on condition of military or general, or sometimes, 
of religious, service. All need for such arrangements had now gone 
by, and John Lawrence used to reply with somewhat brusque frank- 
ness to petitions which pleaded for the retention of their privileges : 
* We want neither your soldiers nor your prayers, and cannot afford 
to pay you for them.' Accordingly, all these services were commuted 
into a money payment ; the fiefs were proportionately reduced and 
the remainder maintained — the older grants in perpetuity to male 
heirs, the more recent grants for the lives of the parties who were in 

Some hardship was, undoubtedly, inflicted and some ill-feeling 
generated by these measures, and it is much to be regretted that it 
was so. But it is equally certain that there was nothing essentially 
unjust in them, still less anything unjust according to native ideas. 
No native dynasty ever succeeded another without making short work 
of its predecessor's grants. Above all, it is clear that the change was 
absolutely necessary in the interest of the masses. The country — 
and by the country it must always be remembered I mean the whole 
bulk of its population, each one of whom, if you prick him, must 
needs bleed — could not afford to pay for two systems of government 
— one our own, based on regular establishments and money payments ; 
the other based on feudal service supported by large territorial posses- 
sions. All these feudatories, although many of them were actually 
holding fiefs on our side of the Sutlej and were under our protection, 
had joined the Sikh army when it invaded our territory in quest of 
new acquisitions. If it was fair to deprive the Punjab Government 
of a large tract of country, for having invaded British territory, it was 
equally fair that its feudatories should bear their share of the con- 
sequences. Our mode of dealing with them was certainly more 
liberal than any which they themselves would have meted out to a 
people whom they had conquered. In particular, it was much more 
liberal than that with which Runjeet Sing himself had treated the 
chiefs of the Punjab plains whom he had subdued. In any case, 
our measures were justified by success. The great feudatories sub- 


mitted, as a body, to their altered circumstances, without opposition 
and with a good grace, and, what is more remarkable, though treated 
with less indulgence than the chiefs of the adjoining hills, and though 
urged by them to rise against us in the second Sikh war, with one 
single exception, they all refused to do so. And this one exception 
only served to prove the rule, for it was that of the Bedi Bikrama 
Sing, the high priest of the Sikhs and the special patron of female 
infanticide ! 

But as this matter is important, and as the difference of opinion 
upon it between the elder and the younger brother was ultimately to 
become so vital, John Lawrence shall put his case in his own words. 
Here is a letter to Sir Frederick Currie, dated October 17, 1846, 
which indicates his view in a narrow compass : — ■ 

I am anxious for your opinion on the following point. There are some 
five hundred villages in the Jullundur, worth about five lacs of rupees, 
which were conquered by different Sikh chiefs seventy or eighty years 
ago. In some cases, three or four, or even more, villages are held by one 
or two persons ; in others, there are from five to thirty and forty share- 
holders. I propose to recommend to Government that the possession in 
all these cases be affirmed merely for life, and the shares lapse to Govern- 
ment on the demise of each occupant. My brother thinks we ought to 
maintain them for ever, subject to a certain payment. What do you say? 
These are not private properties, but alienations of the Government rights. 
They won them by the strong hand ; they have now forfeited them by the 
same law by which they held them, namely, that of the sword. Why should 
we give up the Government right ? I see no policy in so doing ; politi- 
cally, these people will never support us, and to the country they are a 
perfect incubus. Why not let them gradually fall in, and let the descen- 
dants of these conquerors return to the plough whence their fathers 
came ? W T hat increases the difficulty is, that by the Hindu law of inheri- 
tance these lands will be divided into infinitesimal portions gradually, 
and as the occupants are not proprietors, they will not become petty yeo- 
men cultivating their own lands, but beggarly gentlemen, too proud to 
work and unwilling to starve. You cannot remedy this by entailing the 
property on the eldest son, for, in that case, where you please one, you 
put up the backs of ten, besides going against custom and precedent. 
Runjeet Sing was gradually getting rid of all these feudal lords. If you 
think that the heirs have rights, why not allow them so many years' 
purchase for their rights directly the division comes below one village ? 

Hard as was John Lawrence's work in the Trans-Sutlej States, he 
by no means wished to lessen it ; and, hearing that it was proposed 
by Government to lessen that of his brother Commissioner, Colonel 


Mackeson, in the Cis-Sutlej States, by appointing a sessions judge, 
who would take the civil cases off his hands, he wrote to Elliot, 
Secretary to Government, protesting vigorously against a project — 
the separation of the civil from the revenue work — which he believed 
to be fraught with serious consequences to India : — 

I want no such personage as a sessions judge here. I have not a bit 
too much work, though I have plenty of it. I have a great objection to 
the civil and revenue work being separated. A regular civil court plays 
the very devil. Its course of procedure is ruinous to the tenures of the 
country, for the agriculturists cannot fight their causes in that court. 
It is ruining the people in the North-West Provinces, and will do the 
same wherever it is introduced. We are getting on capitally here. This, 
I think, will prove the pattern district of the North-West, and will pay 
Government famously if you do not let off too many jagheers. 

In July 1847, John Lawrence came down to Jullundur to hold 
these same sessions and appeal courts, and it was while he was en- 
gaged in this work, in a building which lay at some distance from 
the city and treasury, that a ' cow riot ' occurred, which must have 
brought vividly back to his mind one of the most striking incidents 
of his early career. The Hindus, who, under Sikh rule, had been 
accustomed to a system of strict protection for their sacred animal, 
came in great numbers to the court-house in which Hercules Scott, 
the Assistant-Commissioner, was presiding, to protest against the 
orders which had recently been issued allowing cows to be slaughtered 
for food. Scott refused to interfere, whereupon some fifteen hundred 
of them rushed excitedly to the Commissioner's court, surrounded 
the house, and, when John Lawrence told them that the order was 
the Governor-General's and could not be rescinded, they broke out 
into open violence. His servants were attacked and beaten, fifteen 
mounted sowars who attempted to disperse them were pulled off 
their horses, and John Lawrence himself, on coming out, was pelted 
with stones. He ordered up a company of sepoys from the civil 
treasury, and their soubadar, seeing a dense and excited mob gathered 
around the house, while the troopers were being mauled and the 
lives of the Europeans were in danger, halted his men and gave the 
order to ' fix bagnets ! ' The sound was too much for the malcon- 
tents. They broke and fled, and the danger was over. In revenge, 
— to make the parallel with John Lawrence's earlier experience more 
complete— they closed all the shops in the bazaar and suspended 
business for some weeks. But no further harm came of it, nor was 


it necessary here for John Lawrence, as he had done on the previous 
occasion, to act the part of purveyor-general. 

The time passed away pleasantly enough with John Lawrence, as 
he saw his work in the Jullundur Doab growing under his hand. 
J kit, in August, he was obliged to leave it again and go on the same 
thankless errand to Lahore. The strain of the work in the Punjab, 
with the full powers which now belonged to him, had been too much 
for the ever active, yet, long since, overwrought, frame of Henry 
Lawrence. Supported by his able assistants, and stimulated by the 
field for usefulness which the new powers committed to him had 
seemed to open up, he had thrown himself, during the last seven 
months, — three of them the hottest in the year — with headlong 
ardour into his work. To reduce the overgrown army, which before 
the Sutlej campaign had been 85,000 strong, to the moderate num- 
ber of some 20,000 ; to secure for the discharged soldiers their 
arrears of pay and induce them to return to peaceful avocations ; to 
subject those who remained to strict discipline and yet, by paying 
them punctually, to make them contented with their lot ; to strike 
off the most obnoxious taxes, and moderate and equalise those which 
were retained ; to compel the tax-gatherers of the Khalsa, the ' official 
locusts ' of the land, to disgorge their ill-gotten gains, and to ensure 
that the money paid in to them, in future, should reach the public 
treasury ; to introduce a very simple penal code which should be 
adapted to the wants and to the intelligence of the people, — these 
were some of the objects which Henry Lawrence put before himself, 
and which he had already done something towards securing. In 
order to prepare the way lor this code, he had summoned to Lahore, 
just before his health gave way, fifty Sikh heads of villages, who, after 
sitting there in solemn conclave for some months, were to reduce 
the unwritten customs and morals of the people to a written law, 
which was at once to reform and perpetuate them. 1 

The ' unlimited authority ' given to Henry Lawrence by treaty, of 
course he had found, in practice, to be limited enough. For it was 
a part of the programme to work as far as possible through the 
Durbar, almost every member of whom, as he would have himself 
admitted, was alike venal and selfish, while the Queen-mother, who 
had, from the first, chafed at the interference of the British, was not 
likely to be more friendly now that they had torn away her lover 

Kaye's Sketches of English Officers ; vol. ii. p. 297. 


from her. This ' Hindu Messalina,' as Lord Hardinge and Herbert 
Edwardes, justly or unjustly, call her, soon indeed consoled herself 
for the loss of an old favourite by finding new ones, and it was not 
long before her slave girl, Mungala, was detected carrying treasonable 
messages to Lai Sing and to Moolraj, the powerful and semi-inde- 
pendent ruler of Mooltan. At last, she put the finishing stroke to. 
her iniquities by managing to insult the Resident, the Ministers, and 
the whole Durbar, at once. It had been arranged that a grand 
Durbar should be held at which Tej Sing, the President of the 
Council, was to be installed as Raja of Sealkote, while sundry decora- 
tions were to be bestowed on other deserving Sirdars. The astrologers 
were duly consulted, the auspicious day was fixed, and all the chivalry 
of the moribund Khalsa were assembled to take part in the ceremonial. 
But when Tej Sing knelt before the youthful Maharaja to receive the 
saffron spot on the forehead which was to dub him a Raja, ' the little 
prince proudly folded his arms in token of refusal, and flung himself 
back on his velvet chair with a tutored obstinacy which was not to 
be shaken.' l 

Such an insult was too great to be put up with ; and Henry Law- 
rence, knowing well that the Maharani had been, throughout, intrigu- 
ing against his authority, with the full assent and consent of the Durbar, 
decreed the separation of the boy King from his unscrupulous 
mother. She stormed and raved and scratched in vain, and was de- 
spatched in a dhoolie to Shikarpore, twenty miles away, with no greater 
difficulty than Lai Sing had been removed before her. Here she 
became the focus of ever fresh and more formidable intrigues, and 
fresh measures of precaution had to be taken against her. About the 
time of the second Sikh war, she was transferred to Benares, where, 
having changed her dress with a sempstress, she escaped to Nepal, 
and thence, after many vicissitudes, to England. 

The removal of the Queen-mother from Lahore was one of the 
last acts of Henry Lawrence as Resident. His health failed him, and 
in August he left for Simla, only returning, in November, for a 
passing visit, on his way to England. One of the most important and, 
very possibly, the happiest chapter of his life was now closed. He had 
found at Lahore full scope for all his vigour. He had had that variety 
and multiplicity of occupation and interests which were as the breath 
of life to him. Of a sanguine temperament, he was buoyed up by the 

1 Arnold's Administration of Lord Dalhousie, vol. i. p. 51. 


hope of saving a native state whose history appealed to many of his 
finer sympathies and instincts, and of stemming the tide of annexa- 
tion which was, so soon, to swallow up so many of the independent 
principalities of India. He had been compelled to deal with no 
burning questions of state policy, such as were to confront him when 
he returned from England to a post of still greater dignity and 
importance, the Presidency of the Board of Administration of the 
province which, in spite of all his generous efforts, it had been found 
necessary to annex. His work had been one of pure philanthropy, 
in which it was hardly possible for honourable and intelligent men to 
differ widely. He had been surrounded by a band of assistants, 
' every one of whom was his friend, and most of whom had been intro- 
duced into the Punjab by him,' and shared with him all his views and 
sympathies. More than this, he had had the help, whenever it was 
required, of his brother John, a man whose arm was as strong as his 
mind was massive and methodical, and his spirit willing and self-sacri- 
ficing. ' Each of my assistants,' says Henry Lawrence, ' was a good 
man. The most were excellent officers. My chief help, however, 
was in my brother John, without whom I must have had difficulty in 
carrying on. On three different occasions, during my temporary 
absence, he took charge for me. ... In various ways he was most 
useful, and gave me always such help as only a brother could.' 

This is an acknowledgment as frank as it is generous ; and it is 
well to call pointed attention to it, for some of the more thorough- 
going partisans of Henry — and no man ever had the gift of binding his 
followers to him by ties of more enthusiastic loyalty, and so, as it were, 
of forcing them to be thorough-going partisans, than he — have com- 
plained that John, in his successful administration of the Punjab, reaped 
the fruits of that which he had had little share in sowing. Such was 
certainly, as this letter shows, not the opinion of Henry Lawrence 

Compared with such thorough-going partisans, it has been said 
with equal wit and truth that John was a staunch Henry-ite, and 
Henry a staunch John-ite. The disciples have gone far beyond the 
master, as there have been Lutherans who have gone far beyond Luther, 
and as the Paulicians have gone far beyond and stultified St. Paul. 
In the matter of time alone, out of the period of some two years 
which elapsed between the treaty of Umritsur in March 1846, and the 
outbreak at Mooltan, in April 1848, it should be remarked that, while 
Henry was residing at Lahore for some ten months only, John was 

206 LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. 1846-48. 

residing there and officiating for him for not less than fourteen ; while,, 
as regards the work which he managed to get through, the letters 
which I have already quoted will give sufficient evidence. The two 
brothers, it is true enough, differed from each other, as men of such 
different temperaments are sure to do, on one or two important and 
upon several minor matters of policy ; but they were, in no sense, 
rivals, in no sense, jealous of each other. Neither of them ever tried 
to steal a march upon the other. They were fairly matched in energy, 
in ability, and in self-devotion ; and those who would detract from 
the one in order to exalt the other, would do what would have been 
equally distasteful to both. 

Finally, that we may estimate aright the happiness of Henry during 
this, as compared with the next and better-known period in his life, it 
must be remembered that he had been working, as Resident, under 
a chief who was thoroughly congenial to him, a chief as chivalrous, as 
high-minded, and as philanthropic as he was himself, one who wrote to 
him and to whom he wrote — as a large budget of correspondence in 
my hands shows — with all the freedom and affection of a brother. 
When he returned, things were to be widely different. For Lord 
Dalhousie and he were to be as antagonistic to each other as two great 
and high-principled men could well be. The one was to jar upon 
the other to an extent which was to be fatal to the peace of mind of 
the more sensitive and delicate nature. What Henry Lawrence 
thought of Lord Hardinge has been put on record by Henry Lawrence 
himself in an elaborate essay on his administration, and is preserved in 
the edition of his collected essays. What Lord Hardinge thought of 
Henry Lawrence is evident from the feeling which was pretty general 
throughout India, that the Governor-General was too much under his 
influence. It was remarked that he had planted a 'triumvirate of 
Lawrences ' beyond the frontiers of British India, and was pretty 
much ruled by one of them within them. Lord Hardinge pressed 
his friend to accompany him to England, and, while on his way thither, 
wrote thus, on his behalf, to Sir John Hobhouse, the President of the 
Board of Control : — 

My dear Sir John, — I am anxious to say a few words to you on a sub- 
ject which you formerly received with favour. I allude to the distinction 
of K.C.B. for Colonel Lawrence. I have no objects to urge as regards 
myself, and his claims are so strong and so just that, even if I had, I 
should wish his to take the precedence. I should be most happy if, on 
his return to England, he could be rewarded by this mark of Her 


Majesty's favour. Since the war closed, early in 1846, his labours have 
been incessant and most successful. His personal energies, his moral 
force of character, were admirably displayed by leading the Sikh forces 
into the Kashmere passes in the autumn of 1846 — a force scarcely re- 
covered from mutiny to their own government and hostility to us ; and 
he has, since the treaty, as you know, administered the government of 
the Punjab with great ability and complete success. This is the last act 
of conscientious duty towards a most deserving officer ; and there is no 
one of the many officers whom I have left behind me in India who has 
such good pretensions to the favour of Government as my good friend 
Colonel Lawrence, and there is nothing which you can do for me 
which will give me more pleasure than to see him honoured as he 

This appeal, it need scarcely be added, was favourably listened to,, 
and, within a month of his landing in England, Henry Lawrence re- 
ceived, amidst general acclamation, the distinction he had so well 
earned, and which his kind friend Hudlestone had prognosticated for 
him from the very beginning of his Indian career, when he told his 
sister that ' all her brothers would be sure to do well, but as for Henry,, 
he would be Sir Henry Lawrence before he died.' 




The second prolonged residence of John Lawrence, while acting for 
his brother at Lahore, may be dismissed with greater brevity than the 
first ; for the picture which I have endeavoured to draw of the one 
may, mutatis mutandis, serve for the other also. The banishment of 
Lai Sing and of the Queen-mother had removed some of the chief 
causes of anxiety. But the more chronic difficulties, the venality 
and the selfishness, the intrigues and the empty exchequer of the 
Sirdars, through whom the Resident was bound to work, were the 
same as ever. They offered a passive resistance to the, possibly, over- 
active efforts which were made to improve them in European fashion ; 
and it was more difficult for a man of John Lawrence's temperament 
to submit with equanimity to such passive resistance than to any 
amount of active opposition. He found, no doubt, in the full powers 
conferred on him by treaty, a wider field of usefulness than had been 
open to him before ; and of these, with the help of his brother's 
assistants who traversed the country, making a summary assessment 
and endeavouring to eradicate the three great social evils of suttee, 
female infanticide, and slavery, he availed himself to the full. The 
security with which these young Englishmen rode about, quite alone, 
on their errands of mercy, seems strange enough when we recollect 
the frequent revolutions which had taken place since the death of 
Runjeet Sing. 

But, notwithstanding these encouragements, there were circum- 
stances attending John Lawrence's second residence at Lahore which 
rendered it even more distasteful to him than his former one. He 
was asked to hold the post, not directly for his brother, as Henry 
Lawrence had himself desired, but for Frederick Currie, who, at some 
future time not named, was to step in and take it out of his hands. 
Currie had already been provided with a seat in Council at Calcutta ; 
he knew little of the Punjab, while Lawrence knew it well ; the Sirdars 

1848 SECOND SIKH WAR. 209 

themselves, moreover, who had, at first, been somewhat nettled by 
the home truths and blunt directness of John, had now come to 
appreciate the ready humour, the unrestrained intercourse, and the 
kindly heart which accompanied and set them off. 'The Durbar,' 
he writes to his brother, ' are very melancholy about my going away. 
Old Tej Sing asked me if he could not get a year's leave ; even Dena 
Nath does not like the change ; and I am sure I can be no favourite 
of his Yesterday, while talking to me, he said that things would 
never go on. "With you," he said, "we can talk and badger 
and dispute ; you are one of our own ; but what can we do with 
Currie Sahib ? " ' That which made the arrangement proposed by 
Lord Hardinge all the more unaccountable was that Currie him- 
self did not like it, and thought that he was coming down merely 
'to oblige the Lawrences.' There was some soreness on both sides ; 
but any lingering feeling of the kind in the breast of John must have 
been removed by the cordiality of their meeting when, at last, Currie 
arrived, and by the letter written to him by Lord Hardinge just before 
he set out for England : — 

Off the Sandheads : January 20, 1848. 

My dear Lawrence, — Our pilot leaves in an hour, and this, my last 
letter from the shores of Bengal, is written to express to you the gratifica- 
tion which I feel that you and your brothers, Henry and George Law- 
rence, have so greatly exceeded all the expectations I had formed origin- 
ally of your abilities and judgment. I have acknowledged my sense of 
your valuable services before I relinquished office, and I have recom- 
mended that you should be employed either in Kashmere this year, or 
Oudh the next, or at Lahore, in the event of Currie's returning to Calcutta 
before your brother's health enables him to resume the government of the 
Punjab. I mention these points, of which your brother has probably ap- 
prised you ; for the decisions in the Lahore arrangements, apparently 
adverse to your interests, have been made to accomplish more objects 
than those which meet the eye. . . . Your brother is, assuredly, much 
better than he was last year in the cold season at Lahore. If any military 
vacancy should occur in the Council, I think not merely that he ought, 
but that he will be the successor to Littler, and his presence in London 
will forward all these just objects of well-merited ambition. He only 
-wants health to be at the top of the tree, and I don't think there is any- 
thing organically wrong. 

Ever, my dear Lawrence, 

Yours sincerely, 


But I am anticipating. Soon after the arrival of John Lawrence, 
vol. 1. p 


in the previous autumn, at Lahore, the Council of Sikh chiefs, with 
its president, the Dewan Dena Nath, at their head, came to him, and 
premising that Lord Hardinge was a 'real father 'to the Maharaja 
and to the State generally, asked him, with true filial confidence, to 
remit the whole sum of money which they had agreed to pay towards 
the expenses of the British occupation ! They could give us no 
money, they said, for there was none to give. John Lawrence replied 
bluntly that this would not do ; that the revenue, if applied with 
justice and economy, was ample to meet all demands on the State ; 
and, going straight to the root of the matter with the directness which 
was characteristic of him, he wrote to his brother, proposing that, 
with a view to ward off financial ruin, the kardars, or tax-gatherers, 
should be obliged by the Resident to give in their accounts punctually, 
and, what was more important still, that, without the Resident's 
signature, there should be no expenditure of money at all. 

I know that you are anxious to work through the Council themselves 
as much as possible, and, no doubt, this is a right principle if it can be 
done. But I much doubt if it will not be necessary to interfere with de- 
tails more than we have hitherto done. I think I see my way clearly and 
know what I would do. You may not have the same views, and I am, at 
any rate, only a bird of passage. I will therefore interfere as much or as 
little as may be thought desirable, and either allow things to go on much 
as they have done, or stir the Durbar up. I shall not write publicly or 
privately to Government on the subject. You will do whatever you think 
necessary. Sheikh Imamuddin's cash arrived from Jullundur to-day. It- 
is the only money in the Treasury. 

This proposal, carefully guarded though it was, brought down on 
him, as he expected, a sharp rebuke from his brother, who could 
never be brought to see the fundamental importance, from a states- 
man's point of view, of a clear balance-sheet ; while, in reply, John 
pointed out that it was the only chance of warding off— that which 
each deprecated equally — the last extremity of annexation. 

One of the assistants to the Residency, Lewin Bowring, afterwards 
highly distinguished as Chief Commissioner of Mysore, has furnished 
me with some lively reminiscences of his chief during this period : — 

John Lawrence (he says) was very brusque of speech in those early 
days ; and what I can best remember of them would develop the rougher 
rather than the gentler side of his character. He used, with a merry 
twinkle of his eye, to say very sharp things to the Punjab chiefs, under 
which they winced, although he was half in fun. He certainly had what: 


is called a rough tongue then, and the Sirdars had a wholesome dread of 
him. Yet, in spite of his curtness of speech, he was so popular with us, 
his assistants, that there was almost a mutiny among us when we heard 
that Sir Frederick Currie was to be sent up to take the place of Sir 
Henry, in supersession of his brother John, in whom we had unbounded 
confidence. John had been assisting Henry, during a temporary absence, 
in his arduous duties, and had taken immense trouble in producing order 
out of chaos. He was a far abler man at details than his brother, 
though less considerate, perhaps, towards the Sikh chiefs. He introduced 
a summary settlement of the land revenue, which was, at the time, in a 
most disorganised state, accomplished many judicial reforms, and devised 
a system analogous to our penny postage, which was of great benefit. 
In his endeavours to reduce expenditure he insisted on all orders for dis- 
bursing money being brought to him for counter-signature, a proceeding 
to which the Durbar greatly objected, and, perhaps, not without some 
reason, as it was virtually the assumption of the highest power in the State. 
When Rai Bhaj Sing, the Vakil of the Durbar, came to him in the 
morning with papers for signature, he would say to him, 'Well, Bhaj 
Sing, aj kya nay a dagha hai? 7 ('What new roguery is there to-day?') 
And in Durbar he was wont to tutoyer the chiefs, and omit all well-turned 
complimentary phrases, to the great horror of the courtly Noor-ood-deen, 
one of the members of Council. The Durbar, though they had a great 
respect for his force of character, did not regard him with as much affec- 
tion as they did his brother. He was unpretentious in his habits, and 
used to sit in his room with his shirt-sleeves turned up over his arms and 
a cigar in his mouth, dictating orders to a native scribe, who, squatting 
on the ground, read out papers to him, while his wife sat close by, doing 
some needle-work. We all liked his plain unassuming manner, even 
though his blunt speaking may, at times, have given offence to those who 
were sensitive ; for we all felt that he was a man of commanding powers. 
Even in those days, he must have been conscious of great capacity to rule, 
as I remember his saying, one day, that he would undertake to govern 
Ireland, which was then passing through a dangerous crisis, with success. 
He said this not in a boasting way, but, as he always spoke, with perfect 

The difficulties and annoyances of John's public duties at Lahore 
were not lessened by the presence of any extra comforts in his 
domestic life. Neither at that, nor at any other period of their lives 
did the Lawrence brothers care much for the luxuries or refinements 
of civilisation. At the Residency house there were very few of the 
comforts, and not an abundant supply even of what are commonly 
considered to be the necessaries, of life. Henry was as careless as 
John of appearances, and was even more unconscious of his sur- 

p 2 


roundings. The one candle that lighted, or failed to light, the tent 
in which he and his wife and an assistant would be working at 
night, was, as I have been told by an eye-witness, placed, not in a 
candlestick, but in the neck of an empty beer-bottle ; and, on one 
occasion, when a second candle was wanted for the variety of occu- 
pations which were going on, Henry, with the utmost simplicity, re- 
marked that some one must first drink another bottle of beer ! A 
curious commentary this on the 'gorgeous East,' but one which, 
peradventure, the great Puritan poet himself would have been among 
the first to appreciate. In his lavish hospitality, Henry Lawrence 
would often ask more people to dinner than by any possibility he 
had room for, and then, as likely as not, would forget to order the 
dinner for them. And sometimes a provident friend, who made it 
his business to look after his chiefs interests, would inquire privately 
whether the dinner had been ordered, or endeavour to supply any 
deficiencies, surreptitiously, from his own table. 

When John Lawrence took his brother's place at the Residency, 
there was much more forethought, but there was still little that could 
be called comfort. His wife and family indeed were with him, a boon 
of which he had been deprived during nine months of the year 1846, 
and five of the year 1847. But the house which had sufficed for the 
ample hospitalities and the simple wants of the Lawrence brothers, 
and had often given shelter, in patriarchal fashion, to a goodly band 
of assistants as well, was not found to be large enough for Currie, 
who had been designated as their successor. The discomforts of 
building were thus added to those which were inherent in the place 
and in the work, and one or two details of the domestic arrangements, 
which I gather from John Lawrence's letters, may, perchance, not be 
without their interest to another and more exacting generation. John 
Lawrence and his wife, his three children, and a European servant, 
had only two rooms, twelve feet by fifteen, to divide between them. 
Henry Lawrence and Robert Napier, now Lord Napier of Magdala, 
shared a third ; while the ' assistants ' were lucky enough if they fared 
as did their chiefs, and had half a room apiece ! Such was the mod j 
of life, and such the school in which some of the best and greatest of 
our Indian administrators were trained. The details may seem trivial, 
but they have an interest and importance of their own. For it was 
here that, — following the example set them by the two brothers, the 
two master-spirits of Henry and John Lawrence, — a whole band of 
men learned lessons of simplicity and of contentment, of absorption 

1848 SECOND SIKH WAR. 213 

in their work, and of sympathy with the natives, which they were 
never afterwards to unlearn, and which may still be said to be a real 
power in India. It was from such materials, and under such in- 
fluences, that one of the noblest portions of the great fabric of our 
Indian Empire was being built up — an Empire as majestic as that of 
Rome, and ruled, on the whole, with a beneficence of purpose towards 
its subject races of which few Romans ever dreamed. 

Hanc olim veteres vitam coluere Sabini, 
Hanc Remus et /rater ; sic fortis Etruria crevit, 
Scilicet et rerum facta est pulcherrima Roma. 

One friendship formed by John Lawrence during this visit to 
Lahore, and never afterwards interrupted, should be noticed here. 
Under the peculiar conditions of our occupation of the Punjab, 
Lahore was the most important military station in India. Sir John 
Littler, one of our best generals, was in command of the Division, 
and when Colin Campbell — the famous soldier who had played his 
part in the retreat to Corunna, had fought, at Vittoria, had led the for- 
lorn hope and bled at San Sebastian — was retiring from the scene of 
military operations in China, at the head of his splendid 98th Regi- 
ment, Lord Hardinge determined to secure his services also for the 
post of danger, and gave him the command of a brigade at Lahore. 
Here he became a fast friend, first of Henry, and then of John Law- 
rence. ' I am delighted,' he says in his ' Diary,' ' at the prospect of 
John Lawrence's remaining at Lahore during his brother's absence.' 
He frequently accompanied John during his shooting excursions — 
an amusement in which the civilian was, from long practice, much 
more at home than the soldier. John Lawrence was an excellent shot 
I have been told by his friends that he would kill a jackal with a pistol 
from his buggy as he was driving by ; while Colin Campbell regret- 
fully confesses that 'he could not touch a feather from the back of an 
elephant.' No one of the Lahore officials was more grieved than he, 
on both public and private grounds, when it was determined that John 
Lawrence was to give place to Currie. * I am most sorry,' he says, 
1 that John Lawrence is going. He is not only a nice ' (one of Colin 
Campbell's highest terms of praise, as his biography shows), ' friendly, 
and honest fellow, but he is the sort of political authority with whom 
I should like to have to act if any disturbance were to arise during 
our stay in the Punjab.' l 

1 Life of Lord Clyde , by General Shad well, vol. i. pp. 148, 159. 


Lord Dalhousie, the new Governor-General, on his arrival in India 
on January 12, 1848, was received with the usual honours at Govern- 
ment House, and, in the following week, Lord Hardinge sailed for 
England, accompanied by Henry Lawrence, after assuring his suc- 
cessor that, so far as he could see, ' it would not be necessary to fire 
a gun in India for seven years to come ! ' But, still, Currie came not 
to Lahore, and still, John Lawrence worked on cheerfully, though he 
was anything but satisfied with his position there. ' I hope,' he had 
written to his successor-designate on November 21, 'that you will 
come as soon as you can conveniently do so. As far as I am con- 
cerned, the sooner I am out of the Punjab the better I shall be 
pleased.' But the following February still found him in harness in 
the Punjab, and when, at last, he heard that Currie was actually on 
his way, he wrote to his brother Henry, offering, with his usual un- 
selfishness, to return to Lahore at any time rather than bring him back 
from England before his health was re-established. 

As I said before, sooner than bring you out before your time, I will 
come back here again, if necessary. But I would much rather that Currie 
stayed the whole time. These frequent changes are a great evil. No 
man has time to carry out his plans, and therefore to do much good. . . . 
It was bad enough when either my own reputation or yours was con- 
cerned. But it is worse now ; for no one likes being made a mere warm- 
ing-pan of. Government has just written to me to do nothing about 
Mooltan till Currie comes. Thus six weeks are lost. In two months I 
would have assessed all Mooltan. Men sent there in the middle of 
March will only lose their health, going about, and not accomplish the 
work in double the time. 

These words, as we shall hereafter see, have an immediate bearing 
on events which were destined to set the Punjab in a flame, and to 
lead to the annexation of the whole country. Had John Lawrence 
been allowed to have his way in the matter he would have sent 
Arthur Cocks to Mooltan in January, and the second Sikh war, with 
its unaccountable blunderings and Cadmean victories, might, possibly, 
have never taken place at all. 

The long-expected Resident arrived on March 6, and he and John 
Lawrence, in spite of previous heart-burnings, got on capitally together. 
They discussed all the pressing questions and arrived at a thorough 
accord. The new buildings had been completed and the 'assist- 
ants,' with two exceptions, were cleared out to Mean Meer. The 
patriarchal period at the Residency had now passed away for ever. 

•j S48 SECOND SIKH WAR. 215 

•' Whereas in your and my time,' says John to his brother, ' there was 
neither privacy nor comfort, there will now probably be too much of 
: )oth.' On March 17, 'St. Patrick's Day,'— as his father, with, pos- 
sibly, awakened memories of his lineage and his youthful escapades, 
remarks with satisfaction,— a second son, Henry, was born ; and 
on April 3, the whole Lawrence family, with the baby, which was 
then little more than a fortnight old, started for Jullundur, 'right 
glad to go. ' 

John Lawrence, after making a rapid tour through his province, 
eached in safety the beautiful hill station of Dhurmsala, where he 
lad bought a house. The prospect of spending a few weeks in that 
jool climate, with only an occasional visit to the plains when it might 
be necessary to hold the sessions, seemed too delightful to be true. 
And, unfortunately, it was too delightful to be true. For, before 
many days had passed, news came that Vans Agnew and Anderson, 
the two officers who had been deputed to Mooltan, had been foully 
murdered, and that the Government was in the dilemma which John 
Lawrence had foreseen, and had, in vain, tried to avert. We must 
either now enter, at once, on military movements which might land us 
in a general war in the middle of the hot season, and at the hottest 
place in India ; or, if we postponed operations till the cool season, we 
must run the even greater risk of appearing to hesitate before a foe, 
and should give time for all the elements of discontent, first, to con- 
centrate themselves at Mooltan and, then, to burst into a flame which 
might envelop the Punjab. 

What were the circumstances which had placed us in this sad 
dilemma ? Moolraj, the Dewan of Mooltan, was the son and successor 
of the famous Sawun Mull, to whom Runjeet Sing had committed the 
care of the redoubtable fortress which he had at last taken. The forti- 
fications of Mooltan had been known to fame ever since the time of 
Alexander, and it was not likely that the chief who held it would long 
remain dependent on anyone else. Sawun Mull had been a good ruler, 
as Eastern rulers go, and after a reign of twenty years, in which he had 
amassed an enormous fortune, had died in 1844, leaving his son, 
Moolraj, the heir to his wealth and to his kingdom. The Sikhs, what- 
ever their good qualities, are the moneymakers — the Jews or the 
Armenians — of the Indian peninsula ; and Lai Sing, as the represen- 
tative of the paramount power, demanded from Moolraj a nuzzur, or 
succession- duty, of a crore of rupees. It was a struggle for money 
rather than for power on the part of each, and Moolraj long managed to 


fight off the evil day. But he was at last induced, under a safe-con- 
duct from John Lawrence, to come to Lahore ; and there, after tedious, 
but not unfriendly, negotiations, the payment of the succession-duty 
was arranged. But when Moolraj, in a moment of vexation, expressed 
a wish to resign his post, he was taken at his word. Another Sirdar 
was appointed in his place, and two English officers were told off to 
accompany him to Mooltan and act there as they were acting in other 
parts of the Punjab. Arthur Cocks, 'a fine, resolute, good-tempered 
fellow,' as John Lawrence calls him, who knew the Sikhs well, had 
been selected by both brothers for the ticklish business But an 
order from head-quarters to take no step in the matter till the new 
Resident should arrive, had caused another three months' delay, 
and had given the discontent at Mooltan time to come to a head. 
Currie, on his arrival, selected Vans Agnew, a civilian, and Lieutenant 
Anderson, brother-in-law to Outram, for the dangerous duty ; and, 
supported by a mixed force of five hundred Sikhs and Ghoorkas, they 
had set out with the new Dewan, to take over the government from 
Moolraj. Unfortunately they did not go with their escort. They 
went by water, while the escort went by land, so that, by the end of the 
journey, they were hardly known to their natural protectors. 

What followed is too well known, and has been described by too 
many pens, to call for a fresh description here. Vans Agnew and 
Anderson were treacherously struck down as they were riding through 
the gateway by the side of Moolraj, and, after they had been heroically 
defended, for some twelve hours, by that portion of their escort which 
remained faithful, were brutally murdered and their dead bodies were 
treated with every kind of indignity. The original attack, like the 
much more recent one on our embassy at Cabul, seems not to have 
been premeditated by those who struck the blow, still less to have 
been deliberately planned by the authorities. But in Asiatic cities, 
even more than in European, the sight of the means to do ill deeds 
often makes ill deeds done. The more resolute and reckless carry 
away by sheer force of will the half-hearted or well-disposed, and, thus, 
a whole city becomes involved in the guilt of a few. But in any case, 
Moolraj, unlike the late ill-fated ruler of Cabul, made the deed his own 
by adopting it after it was done, and called by proclamation on all the 
inhabitants of the Punjab— Sikh, Hindu, and Afghan— to rise against 
the hated foreigner. 

Now then, if ever, was the time for prompt and energetic action. 
It was an occasion to put to the test the knowledge of the native 

1 348 SECOND SIKH WAR. 217 

character and the fibre of each man who was in authority. What 
Lord Hardinge and Henry Lawrence would have done under such 
circumstances is clear enough from what they had so lately done in. 
the case of Imamuddin in Kashmere. What Currie would have 
clone, had he been left free to act, may be inferred from the steps he 
did, at once, take for a movement towards Mooltan, and from the 
advance which, later on, he carried out against the wishes, if not positive 
orders, of his superiors. How John Lawrence would have acted is put 
beyond the reach of doubt by the letters I have before me — letters 
written, not with that cheap wisdom which comes after the event and 
points out what the writer would have done when there was no longer 
any chance of his being able to do it, but sent off in hot haste, on the 
day on which he received the news, to Elliot the Secretary to Govern- 
ment, to Currie the Resident at Lahore, and to Wheeler the Brigadier- 
General commanding at Jullundur. This it is my business to bring out, 
rather than painfully to track the messages which passed and repassed 
between the Resident, the Governor-General, and the Commander-in- 
Chief, and which ended in their doing nothing at all. 

How was this ? The Commander-in-Chief was brave and gene- 
rous as a lion, but he was always in extremes. When his blood 
was up, and he was within sound of a gun, there was nothing he 
would not do and dare. When he had cooled down, he showed an 
amount of caution which, in a less heroic nature, might have been 
put down to inertness or even timidity. The Governor-General was 
new to India. He was only thirty- six years of age, and, naturally 
enough, in this, the first burning question which had come before 
him, he was disposed to trust to the counsels of others rather than his 
own keen intelligence and masterful will. It was, perhaps, the only 
occasion in the whole of his Indian career on which he can be 
accused of having done so. The conclusion to which these two 
highest authorities came, was that it was too late to risk the safety of 
English troops in any active operations ; in other words, as Henry 
Lawrence sarcastically put it, they came to a resolution 'to have a 
grand shikar (hunt) in the cold season, under the lead of the Governor- 
General.' Had the advice given by John Lawrence, and supported, 
to a great extent, by Currie, been followed to the end, it is not too 
much to say that the disturbance at Mooltan might — as we have 
almost invariably found in India under similar circumstances — very 
possibly, have ended where it began, and have proved a mere local 


The murder was commited on April 20. On the 30th, the news 
reached John in his remote hill station under the snowy peaks of the 
Himalayas ; and, on that same day, he wrote two highly characteristic 
letters to Elliot and to Currie, extracts from which I proceed to give. 
We feel, as we read, how sound were the instincts and how keen the 
insight of the man who could divine, at a glance, the exact nature of 
the outbreak, and suggest the measures which would be most certain to 
suppress it. They are an anticipation of that far greater crisis which 
he would have to meet hereafter, when, cut off — perhaps happily cut 
off — from Governors-General and Commanders-in-Chief, it would be 
his to command rather than to suggest, to act rather than to think, 
and to break through all the restraints of etiquette and precedence in 
order that something of infinitely more value than etiquette and pre- 
cedence might weather the storm. 

My dear Elliot, — I have just heard from Currie, dated the 25th, of the 
melancholy affair at Mooltan, and the deaths of poor Agnew and 
Anderson. I have written to Currie offering to go over if my services 
can be of use. I do not want to thrust myself where I may not be 
wanted. But in such a crisis I think it right to volunteer. Currie seems 
inclined to leave it to the Durbar, and not to march troops on Mooltan. 
I send you a copy of my reply to him. The season, no doubt, is terribly 
bad for moving troops. But the alternative seems worse. The lives of 
none of our officers in Bunnoo, Peshawur, and Huzara will be safe, if 
speedy retribution does not fall on these scoundrels. It was touch and 
go in the Kashmere affair two years ago. It was then a question whether 
the Sheikh surrendered or the troops went over to him. If we do nothing, 
the whole of the disbanded soldiery of the Manjha will flock down and 
make common cause with the mutineers. 

On the same day, he wrote to Currie : — 

Bad as Moolraj's conduct may have been, I should doubt very much 
if he has had anything to do with the original outbreak. Depend on it 
he has been forced into it by circumstances. Ke was, notoriously, a 
timid man, and one of the chief points on which he originally so much 
insisted with me was, that he might be allowed to get away before it 
could be publicly known that he had given up the country. It has often 
happened that, in a row, the Sikhs will not fight against each other, and 
that the weaker party invariably joins the stronger, Still, it seems in- 
credible that Khan Sing's force should have behaved as it has done. I 
much fear now that any troops of the Durbar's marching on Mooltan will 
do as Khan Sing's have done. Despite the heat and advanced season of 
the year, I would counsel action. Otherwise you will have emeutes y as 


you fear, in Bunnoo, Huzara, and Peshawur. The officers, willing or not, 
must go with the soldiers to save their lives. Mooltan is a place of no 
strength. There is in your office a description of the fortifications, 
drawn up by poor Anderson. I would have over a brigade from Feroze- 
pore and Jullundur, and march two European corps and six native ones 
on Mooltan. The place can't stand a siege. It can be shelled from a 
small height near it. I see great objection to this course. But I see 
greater ones in delay. The Durbar neither can do nor will do anything. 
I never saw them do anything. The initiative must, in all cases, come 
from us. Should you think that I can be of use in any way you have 
only to say so. I could leave Barnes in charge of my office and be over 
with you in five days from Kangra. I have no personal wish in the 
matter, but if I can be of use, it is my duty, in such a crisis, to help you. 
I would come by Denanuggur. 

On the following day, he wrote again : — 

My dear Currie, — I have been thinking over the Mooltan affair ever 
since I heard from you. I am still of opinion that our troops should go 
against the fort, not as supporters of the Sikh troops, but as principals. 
I would besiege the place, and if the garrison did not surrender at dis- 
cretion I would storm it and teach them such a lesson as should astonish 
the Khalsa. If you don't act till the cold weather you will have the 
country, I fear, in a flame, and insurrections elsewhere. You will get no 
revenue out of either that country or the surrounding districts. In fact, 
it is impossible to say what will happen if you delay. In the event of 
your not sending our troops, it seems to me that it would be better not 
to send any Sikhs, for they will, assuredly, fraternise with the rebels. I 
cannot understand Moolraj's having hatched the plot. He had all to 
lose and nothing to gain. He might have remained at Mooltan had he 
chosen ; indeed, you showed him that you would rather he had remained. 
It may be that, not wishing to give up, and yet not willing to hold on on 
our terms of dependency, he allowed what he thought might be a petty 
imeute to be got up, in order to show us how troublesome it would be to 
manage the province. Be the cause what it may, I would not delay a 
day in making an example of the rascals. The day they hear the troops 
have left Lahore, they will lose half their strength. Delay will bring 
thousands to their standard. 

Yours sincerely, 

John Lawrence. 

P.S. — It is not to the Sikh Government that we should look to revenge 
the death of our officers. 

It would have been difficult to give sounder advice than that 
which these letters, written off on the spur of the moment, contain, 


But it was not acted on, or, if acted on at all, not till it was too late to 
be of avail. It is true that John Lawrence had been misinformed as to 
the strength of Mooltan, and, as he admitted a few days later, it would 
have been unwise to advance upon it without a siege train. But was 
there not a siege train waiting, all ready for action, at Ferozepore, 
which could be carried by water down the Sutlej to within forty miles 
of the fortress? — and was it not to guard against precisely such an 
insurrectionary movement as this that Lord Hardinge had left behind 
him three moveable brigades, ready to take the field at the shortest 
notice, at Ferozepore, at Jullundur, and at Lahore ? At that time, no 
preparations had been made by Moolraj for a siege, and an immediate 
advance, combined with the news that the 'guns were following ' 
apace, would, probably, have taken the heart out of such resistance 
as he was prepared to offer us. As regards the heat, if the English 
had been unequal to anything but fair-weather campaigns in India, 
they would never have conquered India at all. Seringapatam had 
been stormed on May 4— in the very height, that is, of the hot sea- 
son ; and, as John Lawrence thought of it, he must have recalled 
with a thrill of satisfaction that the storming party had been led by 
his gallant old father, who had been left lying for hours on the breach, 
in the fiery glare of the sun, and yet had weathered the storm. Alighur 
had been taken, and the battle of Assaye fought, in September, a more 
unhealthy season still ; and John Lawrence himself recollected our 
troops marching up to Delhi from Shikawatti in June. 

Happily, in another part of the Punjab, in the Derajat, there was 
a young lieutenant, then engaged in the Revenue Survey, who was 
in full sympathy not with the Governor-General or the Commander- 
in-Chief, but with the Commissioner of the Jullundur Doab, and who 
was in favour of immediate action. A few hasty lines from Agnew, 
addressed ' to General Van Cortlandt, in Bunnoo, or wherever else he 
may be,' had reached Herbert Edwardes in his tent at Dera Futteh 
Khan, on April 22, and had informed him of what had happened at 
Mooltan. Without waiting to refer the matter to any higher authorities, 
he, at once, determined to give all the aid he could. Accompanied 
only by the small force which formed the guard of a revenue officer 
in that turbulent district, and fully conscious that only a portion of it 
could be trusted, he collected boats, he crossed the Indus, he occupied 
Leia, the capital of Sing Saugar Doab, and there or thereabouts, to use 
his own words, 'like a terrier barking at a tiger,' he awaited the attack 
of Moolraj. Availing himself of the hostility which he knew to exist. 

1848 SECOND SIKH WAR. 221 

between the different races in the Punjab, he enrolled 3,000 Pathans ; 
thus following the reverse of the process which afterwards stood us in 
such good stead during the Mutiny. He armed the Mussulmans of the 
frontier against the Sikhs and Mussulmans of Mooltan, as we after- 
wards armed the Sikhs against the Mussulmans and Hindus of Delhi. 
Strengthened by these levies, by Van Cortlandt — an able officer who 
had been in the Sikh service — from Bunnoo, and by some troops from 
Bahawulpore, under Lake, he defeated Moolraj on June 18, the 
anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, in a pitched battle on the field 
of Kyneree, and drove him headlong back towards Mooltan. Follow- 
ing him up, he fought and won, a few days later, a second battle at 
Suddosain, and actually penned Moolraj and his forces within the 
walls of his famous fortress ! ' Now is the time to strike/ he wrote to 
Currie ; ' it is painful to see that I have got to the end of my tether.' 
1 A few heavy guns, a mortar battery, a few sappers and miners, and 
Major Napier to look after them ' — this was all the assistance he had 
asked from the authorities before his advance. But it was not forth- 
coming. He could not ' go beyond his tether ; ' but the exploits 
which, as a young subaltern, he had already performed were worthy 
of the man who, a few years later, in still more dangerous times, was 
to hold so gallantly, against mutineers within and enemies without, the 
all-important frontier post of Peshawur. 

Hearing of Edwardes' double victory, the Resident, who was still 
opposed, or only lukewarmly supported, by the supreme authorities, 
sent, on his own responsibility, a force from Lahore under General 
Whish to co-operate with that before Mooltan. But it was too late. 
It could not prevent a general rising. At best, it could only check its 
progress. And, worse still, the warning which John Lawrence had 
given against employing Sikh troops to coerce their own countrymen 
was neglected, and with the result which he had foreseen. Shere 
Sing, the Sikh commander, went over, at the critical moment, to the 
enemy. The siege of Mooltan, which had just been begun, was 
raised ; and ' the drum of religion,' whose first rumblings had already 
been heard in Huzara and at Peshawur, on the north and west, now 
sounded loud and long at Mooltan, in the south, and summoned the 
Sikhs to rise everywhere, and strike for ' God and the Guru ' against 
the foreigner. The disbanded veterans of Ferozeshuhr and Sobraon 
left, once more, the mattock and plough, and hurried to support the 
renascent Khalsa commonwealth. Nor were they to return to their 
homes again till the doubtfully contested field of Ferozeshuhr had 


found its counterpart at Chillianwallah, and the crowning victory of 
the British at Sobraon had been thrown into the shade by their stili 
more crowning victory at Gujerat. 

The Mooltan outbreak, encouraged by our delays, had thus grown 
into a revolt of the Punjab, and the work of 1846 had to be begun 
over again. More than this, beyond the limits of the Punjab, Golab 
Sing, the monarch of our creation in Kashmere, was said to be only 
biding his time. And the much more formidable Dost Mohammed, 
hating, as well he might, those who had possessed the will to deprive 
him of his throne, and whose poverty alone had consented to restore 
it to him, entered into an alliance against us with the most inveterate 
enemies of his race and creed. It was a case of ' water with fire in 
ruin reconciled.' Sikh and Afghan, for the first time in their history, 
were to fight side by side ; Peshawur, the most valuable acquisition 
of the Lion of the Punjab, was to revert to the Afghan ; and ' the 
dream and the madness ' of Dost Mohammed's life was to be fulfilled. 

Roused by the extremity of the peril, the British lion began, at 
length, to bestir himself in earnest. Large reinforcements were called 
for from Bombay. Others came hurrying up from Bengal. Lord 
Dalhousie, shaking off his scruples and his advisers, set out, in October, 
from Calcutta, for the scene of active operations. ' Unwarned by 
precedent,' he said in public, at Barrackpore, just before he started, 
' uninfluenced by example, the Sikh nation have called for war, and 
on my word, sirs, they shall have it with a vengeance.' And in' 
October — exactly six months, that is, after the murder of Agnew and 
Anderson — the grand army which was to revenge it mustered at 

With the details of the war just begun, otherwise than as they 
affected John Lawrence, his province of the Jullundur Doab, his 
colleagues, and his future, this biography has little to do. A very 
rapid sketch must suffice. 

It was not till November that Lord Gough took the command in 
person of the splendid army which had been collected. It was an 
army complete in all its branches, well supplied with cavalry, with 
draught animals, with ammunition, and with guns ; an army which, look- 
ing at our long experience in India, people might have been excused 
for thinking would go anywhere and do anything. But the first action, 
fought on November 22, at Ramnuggur, on the Chenab, ended in a 
serious check, which, among other heavy losses, cost us the lives of 
Cureton and W. Havelock. The second action of Sadoolapore, on 


December 3, though it was boldly claimed as a victory by the 
Governor-General and the Commander-in-Chief, only induced the 
Sikhs to retire, at their own discretion and in good order, from the 
Chenab to the Jhelum — from a good position, that is, to a still better 
one in their rear. And now, for six weeks more, Lord Gough, on 
whom the Governor-General, knowing his character, had enjoined 
strict caution, forebore to advance. At last, on January n, he moved 
forward, and at three in the afternoon of the 1 3th, — his combative 
instincts aroused by some half-spent cannon-balls which came lum- 
bering in, — the fiery old general, in defiance of the warning given 
him by the battles of Moodki and Ferozeshuhr, gave the order to 

The battle of Chillianwallah was one of those chequered and 
desperate conflicts which, in spite of the gallantry displayed by a large 
portion of our troops, was almost more dangerous to us than an out- 
and-out defeat. The advance of a brigade of infantry at a speed 
which brought them exhausted and breathless among the enemy's 
guns, and after exposing them at the same time to the galling cross- 
fire of Sikh marksmen concealed in the jungle, ended in a hasty 
retreat and heavy loss ; the advance of a brigade of cavalry without 
skirmishers in front, or supports to follow up behind, while our guns 
were so placed in their rear that not one of them could fire a shot in 
its support ; the word of command heard or misheard, or possibly 
not heard at all, which suggested to ears that were too ready to hear 
it a welcome retreat ; the retreat converted into a sauve qui pent, in 
which the 14th Dragoons remorselessly rode down our own guns and 
gunners and even those who were engaged in works of mercy behind 
them ; the colours of three regiments and four guns taken by the 
enemy ; the terrible total of 89 officers and 2,350 men killed or 
wounded — these are the chief incidents of the disastrous battle which 
in view, it is to be supposed, of the twelve guns which we had taken,, 
the imagination of the Governor-General and the Commander-in- 
Chief endeavoured to convert, in their public despatches, into another 
victory, but which the Governor-General, in a private letter which 
lies before me, characterises, together with its predecessors, as 'the 
lamentable succession of three unsatisfactory actions ! ' The facts 
were too strong for proclamations. The whole of India knew the 
truth, and those who can remember the mingled anxiety and indig- 
nation which the news of the ' victory of Chillianwallah ' aroused in 
England, will remember also the sense of relief with which the 


supersession of the brave old soldier, but the reckless general, the 
Marcellus of our Sikh wars, was received by the English public. 

Hitherto, the conduct of the war by the supreme civil and military 
authorities had given little cause for satisfaction. But there was 
another set of men, the founders of the Punjab school, the statesmen- 
soldiers, or soldier-statesmen, who, under the humble name of ' Assist- 
ants to the Resident,' had been stationed in outlying parts of the 
Punjab, and who, throughout this gloomy period, had gone far to 
retrieve the shortcomings of their superiors. What Herbert Edwardes 
had done in his district, and beyond it, has already been described. 

But George Lawrence at Peshawur, James Abbott in Huzara, 
Herbert at the fort of Attock, Reynell Taylor in the Derajat, and 
John Lawrence in the Jullundur Doab — cut off, as most of them 
were, from all communication with the outer world, or served by 
troops on whom little dependence could be placed, and, all of them, 
surrounded by a vast native population whom they had hardly yet 
found time to know — held on to their posts with heroic courage, hoping 
to suppress or to postpone the general rising till the supreme authori- 
ties could be induced to recognise accomplished facts and take the 
field. We turn with pleasure from the mingled vacillation and rash- 
ness, from the divided command, from the orders and counter-orders, 
from the undecided battles, and from the victories that were no 
victories, of the highest authorities, to the resolution, the fearlessness, 
the energy, the clearness of vision, which marked each and all of 
these servants of the East India Company. These were the men, 
some of them connected by family ties, and all of them by ties of 
friendship, of common service, and of sympathy with the subject of 
this biography, who helped to make Chillianwallah bearable, and 
Gujerat possible. What they did, side by side with John Lawrence, 
in the second Sikh war, seems like a preparation for what they or 
their successors were to do under him, nine years later, in the sup- 
pression of the Sepoy Mutiny. The one is a rehearsal for the other, 
as a brief narrative of what was done by the most conspicuous among 
them will show. 

Take first the case of George Lawrence. He had been stationed 
at Peshawur, and though his troops had been plied with solicitations 
by their natural ruler, Chuttur Sing, to rise, he asserted and main- 
tained the influence over the Sikhs which seemed to belong, as of 
right, to all the members of his family. He held on, with heroic 
Ibravery, to his post against Sikhs and Afghans alike, till, on his escape 

1848 SECOND SIKH WAR. 225 

at the last possible moment from the beleaguered Residency, he was 
betrayed into the enemy's hands by an Afghan whom Sir Henry 
Lawrence had laid under special obligations. The Sikhs, a far nobler 
race, to whom treachery and ingratitude are not naturally congenial, 
treated him as their honoured guest rather than as their prisoner ; 
said they had received nothing but kindness from him and from his 
brothers ; apologised for such appearance of restraint as they were 
obliged to put upon him, and allowed him, after an interval, to go 
on his parole to the British head-quarters. 

Take the case of Lieutenant Herbert. He had been sent by 
George Lawrence, when an Afghan invasion seemed imminent, and 
when Chuttur Sing had already risen in Huzara, to occupy, in suc- 
cession to Nicholson, the all-important post of Attock on the fords 
of the Indus. He held on to that dilapidated fort for seven weeks, 
with a small garrison of Pathans, who refused to desert him till Dost 
Mohammed himself should appear upon the scene j and when that 
happened, and they found that their wives and children were in the 
Ameer's power, they expressed their sorrow that they could do no 

Take the still more striking case of James Abbott, — the one 
Englishman who, till very recent times, had set eyes on Khiva — a 
man often misunderstood or misliked by his superiors, but one of 
the most kindly and chivalrous of men, and, perhaps, of all his friends 
the one who has most appreciatively described the character of 
Henry Lawrence. 1 He had been stationed almost alone among the 
wild and untamed inhabitants of Huzara. Unsubdued by the cruelties 
and oppressions of the Sikhs, who used to keep ten regiments at a 
time in their country, they had yielded to his fatherly kindness, and, 
supported by them, he now held out for months, in the fort of Srikote 
against the large Sikh army under Chuttur Sing, and left it only at 
the end of the war. During his rule of five years which followed, 
he helped to turn the wildest and most desolate into one of the 
happiest and most peaceful districts of the Punjab. And if he received 
no external mark of honour from the Government he had served, he 
obtained, what he valued far more, the devoted attachment of his 
people. For many a year after his disappearance from among them, 
the natives loved to recall how he had fed their children with sweet- 
meats, which, when he went out, he carried with him for the purpose, 

1 See his ' Reminiscence ' in the Life of Sir Henry Lawrence, vol. ii. pp. 146-154. 
VOL. I. Q 


or to point with filial veneration to the stone on which he had rested 
for awhile, saying, ' It was on that stone that father Abbott sat. 1 A 
tribute this to the qualities of the man more grateful than the actual 
worship which, as I shall describe hereafter, was paid by the wild 
inhabitants of Bunnoo to the heroic Nicholson ! So true is it, that 
the most lionlike courage is not inconsistent with the gentleness of a 
woman and the simplicity of a child ; and so seldom is it that such 
qualities miss their true and appropriate reward. 

Once more, take the case of Reynell Taylor. He had been left 
behind by Edwardes in the Derajat, when he marched for Mooltan, 
and he too proved equal to the emergency. Followed by a raw rabble 
of Pathan recruits, he cleared the frontier of Sikh soldiers, borrowed 
a honeycombed piece of ordnance from the Nawab of Tonk, and 
actually besieged the fort of Lukki, which was held by two regiments 
of Sikhs with ten guns. Firing round stones from the brook, in 
default of round shot, from his crazy bit of ordnance, without a 
single European soldier, with no hope of reinforcements, in the 
midst of a fanatical Mohammedan population and threatened by an 
army marching down the Kurrum valley from Cabul, he never thought 
of flinching, and, after a siege of a month, reduced the fort to sub- 
mission, and secured to us for ever the possession of the Trans-Indus 
Provinces. The story of this heroic act is little known in England. 
It has not, so far as I am aware, ever been related in any English book, 
and, though it has been followed up by a series of exploits on the 
frontier not unworthy of it, yet a simple C.S.I. Reynell Taylor still 
remains. But it is not immaterial to this biography to record that on 
July 5, 1879, he received an honour which, ' dashed and flecked with 
sorrow ' though it was, can hardly have been of less value in his eyes 
than the highest official recognition of his services. For, on that day, 
he was specially selected from amidst the vast throng of Indian heroes 
and statesmen who were following John Lawrence to his grave in 
Westminster Abbey, to bear the coronet which had been so well won 
and worn by his friend and chief. 

Nicholson, Cocks, Lumsden, and Lake, it need hardly be said, 
had also done their duty right well wherever there was an opening, or 
wherever they could make one for themselves. But what of John 
Lawrence himself? 

We last saw him pleading with almost passionate earnestness, after 

1 Raikes' Revolt in North- West Provinces, p. 26. 

1848 SECOND SIKH WAR. 227 

the outbreak at Mooltan, with the Governor- General, with the 
Brigadier at Jullundur, and with the Resident at Lahore, for imme- 
diate and strenuous action. His suggestions, from whatever causes, 
were not complied with, and with the results which he had foreseen. 
He had been anxious to go to Mooltan in person, but the rapid 
spread of the revolt made it look much more likely that Mooltan or 
its emissaries would come to him. He knew that a rising throughout 
the Punjab must be felt in his own Doab, and he made preparations 
accordingly. Let us briefly review his position. 

The province had been annexed for little more than two years ; a 
short interval this, in which to pacify a brave and energetic people 
who had been in arms against us ; to sweep away the worst abuses 
of the old system, and to introduce the elements of a new one, ' of 
better manners, purer laws.' Yet this is what John Lawrence, in 
spite of his frequent absences at Lahore, had succeeded in doing. 
And he was now to reap the result. It is, of course, impossible that 
any system of government can be swept away and another be put 
in its place without inflicting a considerable amount of hardship. 
Hundreds of place-holders and of hangers-on to the skirts of Govern- 
ment necessarily lose their means of livelihood ; hundreds of soldiers, 
finding that an era of peace and security has dawned, feel their 
raison d'etre taken from them ; scores of feudal chieftains chafe at 
the loss of their right to govern or misgovern ; and John Lawrence, 
it should be added, was never the man to shrink from inflicting 
individual loss where he thought it to be just and necessary for the 
public good. The wonder is, under the circumstances, not that the 
discontent was so great, but that, thanks to the wisdom and modera- 
tion of the changes he made, it was so little ; not that there were so 
many and such desperate risings against the yoke which, however 
light, must needs gall the necks of the wearers, but that they were so 
few, so ill-supported, and so easily suppressed. 

The force in the Jullundur Doab was small enough for the work 
that might be expected of it. At Jullundur itself there were four 
native and one European regiment, some Irregular horse and a bat- 
tery of artillery. Besides these, there were small detachments of 
native troops, which were posted at various points of vantage, such as 
Hoshiarpore and Kangra ; and — more important than all for John 
Lawrence's purpose, as they were immediately subject to him — there 
were two local corps of military police, one composed of Sikhs, the 
other of Hill-Rajpoots. This was the whole of the force available 



for the protection of the province ; and even of this, a large portion 
was to be drawn off, in the course of the war, for military operations 
in the Bari Doab. 

The first symptom of the rising storm showed itself in May — 
within a week or two, that is, of Agnew's murder. It came from 
beyond the frontier. Emissaries from Mooltan traversed the hill 
districts, calling on the chiefs to rise, and promising them the resto- 
ration of all their rights and privileges. At the same time, Bhai 
Maharaja Sing, a Guru who had been outlawed for a plot formed 
under the very eyes of the Resident at Lahore, using the influence 
which his sacred character gave him, collected together several 
hundred followers to the north of the Beas. His object, as his 
movements showed, was the invasion of the British territory. But 
the fords of the river were too well watched by its natural guardians. 
He beat a retreat towards the Chenab ; he was there attacked 
by some Mussulmans, who had discovered that the British rule was 
preferable to the Sikh, was driven into the river, with hundreds 
of his followers, and was seen, so it was said, to disappear, with his 
famous black mare, beneath its waters. But a Guru was not fated 
to die like a dog ! He bore a charmed life, and reappeared now 
here, now there, till he was ultimately taken, as we shall see here- 
after, at Jullundur, by Vansittart. 

Towards the end of August, a second inroad took place. Ram 
Sing, son of the Vizier of Nurpore, one of the small hill states, put 
himself at the head of a band of marauders whom he had collected 
from the Jummoo Hills, crossed the Ravi, seized the fort of Shahpore, 
proclaimed, with tattoo of drums, that the English rule had ceased, 
and took up a commanding position at Nurpore, Charles Saunders, 
Deputy-Commissioner at Hoshiarpore — 'a cool judicious officer,' 
says John Lawrence, ' one of the best I have got ' — was the first, 
with Fisher's Irregular Corps, to arrive at the spot, and he was soon 
followed by Barnes, Deputy-Commissioner at Kangra, and John 
Lawrence, the Commissioner, in person. More troops came up, and, 
a few days later, the position was stormed (Sept. 18, 1848), con- 
siderable booty was taken, and Ram Sing escaped with difficulty to 
the Sikh army encamped at Russool. 

Meanwhile, though, as I have shown, the rebellion had been 
spreading throughout the Punjab, it had been met by no correspond- 
ing effort on the part of the highest authorities. November the 1st 
had been fixed, six months beforehand, as the day on which our 

1848 SECOND SIKH WAR. 229 

campaign was to begin, and the rapid spread of the rebellion was no 
reason, in the opinion of the Governor-General and Commander-in- 
Chief, for changing their plan ! The revolt of Shere and Chuttur 
Sing at opposite ends of the province, the consequent raising of the 
siege of Mooltan, the unopposed march northward of Shere Sing, 
and the imminent danger of Lahore, which, had he known its weak- 
ness, he might have taken then and there, had produced their natural 
effect. All the Sirdars but two joined the insurgents, and the whole 
of the open country was in their hands. 

A few extracts from a letter of John Lawrence to Brigadier 
Wheeler at Jullundur, dated September 25, will give some idea of the 
dangers against which, in view of this general rising, he had to 
guard, and of the scanty means at his disposal for doing so : — 

I have just received your letter of the 19th. Whatever is finally 
determined on, you may depend on my working with you cordially and 
willingly, and, if I appear to be stepping beyond the immediate bounds 
of my own line in explaining my views, you must forgive me. Your ob- 
jections to my proposition regarding Kangra and Nurpore are founded 
on the paucity of troops at your disposal. This may be an insurmount- 
able obstacle to my wishes ; but I will shortly state what arrangements 
might be made to admit of those I proposed, leaving you to determine 
what value is to be placed on my opinion. As regards Kangra, if but one 
wing of a corps can be spared, I would prefer it being placed in that fort, 
as it would thus give me the whole of the hill corps to knock about in the 
event of an entente. The men are better suited to such work, and can be 
more easily moved than Regulars. As it is now, the utmost force I can 
detach are two companies — say one hundred and fifty men \ the rest are 
in forts, the mass being required at Kangra. A small force, moved on 
the instant, confounds insurgents and disperses them, before they can 
gather strength. If not attacked at once, they daily increase in force, 
both from friends and enemies, for they plunder and destroy villages and 
force the people to follow them. Such was the case with Ram Sing. He 
murdered the headman of one village and seized those of others. Two 
days before we attacked him he was joined by one hundred and fifteen 
men of these places. I do not distrust the hill corps. I think they will 
be true to us, though people say otherwise at Lahore. But the fact of 
that corps being disposable to march on any point with their whole force, 
and the moral advantages alone of regular troops being at Kangra, may 
make the difference of a general disturbance in the hills or not. . . . 
These hills are full of disbanded soldiers, not inimical to us, but wanting 
service and bread ; and more danger is to be apprehended here than in 
the plains of the Jullundur Doab. ... In the Jullundur Doab there are 


few disbanded soldiers, an open champaign country, and no forts. Two 
infantry corps, or a couple of irregular cavalry corps and a battery, would, 
I think, render all safe. In the hills, we have an area of three thousand 
square miles, full of soldiery, with but three companies at Nurpore, and 
the Sikh local corps locked up at Kangra. If it is thought necessary 
to put a corps in Govindgurh, surely it is incumbent to take care of 
Kangra ; and this I can't do if I detach any large body of men from 
it. Only consider the moral effects of any general disturbance in the 
hills ; the roads rendered unsafe, the towns plundered, and the revenues 
unpaid ! 

Whether the request of John Lawrence for reinforcements, thus 
made, was ultimately successful or not I have failed to discover. But, 
in any case, he acted as if it were, for during the next two or three 
months he was here, there, and everywhere, with his flying hill-corps, 
putting down insurrection wherever it showed its head, and as soon as 
it had shown it, and at the expense of very little blood or money. It 
was also with his full approval and advice that Wheeler, who was 
reluctant to spare any of his troops from Jullundur for the hill country, 
crossed with a portion of them out of his own district into the Bari 
Doab, to put down disaffection and seize some forts there. 

In November, news came that the frontier fort of Pathancote, 
which was garrisoned by only fifty Sikhs from Kangra and a few 
police, was being besieged by a thousand insurgents, who had been 
collected in the Bari Doab and Kashmere. The danger was urgent, 
for the fort was large and the garrison small. It had ammunition 
and supplies for five days only, and the garrison, composed as it was 
of Sikhs, might be disposed to hand over the fort at once to the 
enemy. By a night march, Barnes relieved the garrison and made 
the besiegers withdraw to Denanuggur, on the Sikh frontier ; and by 
another night march, John Lawrence, — like Joshua, when summoned 
by the Gibeonites, under circumstances of similar urgency, — march- 
ing ' all night,' crossed the Beas into the Punjab and attempted to 
surprise the rebels while they were still asleep. He arrived an hour 
too late, but followed them up with vigour and dispersed them. 
' The Sikh troops,' he says in his report, ' though they knew that they 
were going against Sikhs, evinced the greatest spirit and alacrity.' 

It will be remembered that, unlike the inhabitants of the plains, 
who had not only acquiesced in but welcomed our rule, the hill chiefs 
were naturally more or less discontented with the loss of their ancient 
privileges ; and the flame which had been smouldering, now burst 

i8 4 3 SECOND SIKH WAR. 231 

out simultaneously in different directions. At the other extremity of 
the hill country, the Kutoch chief raised the standard of revolt, 
seized his ancestral palace at Teera and some adjoining forts, and 
fired a royal salute announcing the disappearance of the British Raj. 
At the same time the Raja of Jeswun, lower down in the hills, and the 
Raja of Duttarpore, and the Bedi of Oonah, from the plain country, 
rose up against us. Dividing his force into two parts, Lawrence sent 
Barnes, at the head of one of them, against the Kutoch chieftain, 
while he himself, with five hundred of the Sikh corps and four guns, 
moved down the Jeswun valley against the other insurgents. The 
success of both expeditions was complete. Barnes captured his 
opponent and the forts belonging to him. Lawrence did the same. 
Subdividing again the small force into two columns, with one of them, 
he captured a hill above Umb, held by the enemy ; with the other, 
he destroyed the fort. Both Rajas fell into his hands.. 

The Bedi of Oonah might have proved a much more troublesome 
foe. He held large possessions both in the plains and in the hills, and 
was a man of considerable ambition and arrogance. He was, more- 
over, as I have shown, the high-priest of the Sikhs, being descended 
from Nanuk, the great Guru. This position he had won from his 
brother, whom he had slain in battle. Such a man could not fail to be 
hostile to us, and his opposition was intensified by the fact that we had 
set our faces against the practice, so dear to the Bedi, of female infanti- 
cide. Many of his people, however, refused to fight for him, and, on 
the advance of John Lawrence with a body of Sikhs who seemed as 
ready to go against him as against the Rajas of the hills, he abandoned 
his stronghold and took refuge in the camp of Shere Sing. I may 
add that he shared in the privations and disasters of the subsequent 
campaign, surrendered to us at its close, and spent the rest of his life 
as a British pensioner at Umritsur. 

The retreat of the Bedi into Sikh territory ended John Lawrence's 
campaign— a campaign of thirteen days only, but as complete, on a 
small scale, as any which was ever fought. A bloodless campaign is 
apt to escape the notice of an historian, for the very reasons which — 
if prevention is better than cure, and if to save life and money is 
better than to throw them away — ought to attract particular attention 
to it. From this time forward, not a gun was fired in the Jullundur 
Doab, not even when the echoes of the disastrous battle of Chillian- 
wallah might well have roused it to one more effort ; and that this 
was so, was due chiefly to the skill, the energy, the intrepidity, the 


presence of mind of the Commissioner. With a mere handful of 
troops at his disposal, upon whose fidelity, till he had tested it in 
actual warfare, he could not safely count, he had taken measures to 
quell risings in the most opposite parts of his province, had organised 
his own commissariat, had kept the military authorities up to the mark, 
had carried on the civil government of the country, had led Sikhs 
against Sikhs, religious enthusiasts against their own high-priest ! In 
November of that memorable year, the scales seemed evenly balanced 
in the Punjab, or even to incline, as the result of the first three general 
engagements, in favour of the Sikhs. How much more desperate 
would the struggle have been, had the Jullundur Doab burst into a 
flame and threatened the flank and rear of our hard-pressed army ! 
Golab Sing, left to himself, and surrounded by the rebels, would, 
assuredly, have joined them, and, probably, at least one more Chillian- 
wallah would have preceded Gujerat. 

Such brilliant services could not fail to be noticed by the remark- 
able and masterful spirit who had succeeded Lord Hardinge as Go- 
vernor-General, who was just throwing off the slight symptoms of 
hesitation which, on first landing, had made him defer to the judg- 
ment of others, and who was, henceforth, bent on showing everybody, 
perhaps only too bluntly, that he could afford to stand alone. ' It 
was,' writes Lord Dalhousie to Henry Lawrence from Ferozepore, ' in 
order that no proclamation should be issued without being previously 
snnctioned by me, and in order to ensure unity of action by the 
Government and its officers, and to avoid differences of opinion, that 
I advanced to the verge of the frontier ; and it is for this that I remain 
here now.' 

The bunglings, the delays, and the disasters which had marked 
the opening of the campaign had not, it will readily be believed, 
taken place without causing many high words and much mutual 
recrimination between the fine old Commander-in-Chief and the 
young and self-reliant Governor-General. And a few extracts from 
the confidential letters of Lord Dalhousie to Henry Lawrence, which 
have been kindly entrusted to me by Henry Lawrence's surviving son, 
will help to fill a large gap which I find in Lord Lawrence's letters 
from October 1848 to September 1849, and will also serve to bring 
vividly before us one side (and I think the least lovable side) of the 
man who was henceforward to exercise so powerful an influence over 
the destinies of the Lawrence brothers. They will help to explain so 
much that is pleasant and so much that is painful in their subsequent 

i8 4 3 SECOND SIKH WAR. 233 

relations to him that I have no scruple in inserting them here. A 
special interest, it will be remembered, attaches to the correspondence 
of Lord Dalhousie, from the fact that the bulk of it — all, that is, over 
which his executors have an exclusive control — is sealed up for fifty 
years after his death. Conscious of the integrity of his motives, 
he has thus appealed from the hasty praise or condemnation of 
contemporaries, to the deliberate judgment of posterity; and any 
conclusions, therefore, which we may draw from a portion of his 
correspondence, even though it be so extensive and so important a 
correspondence as that with the brothers Lawrence, must be held 
with some reserve. 

Henry Lawrence had gone, as I have related, to England on ayear's 
leave, which was to be extended, if necessary for his health, to two. 
But the news of the outbreak at Mooltan determined him to return as 
soon as possible to his post. He left England in November, reached 
Bombay in December, hurried up to Mooltan, took part in the opera- 
tions of the final siege, left it on January 9, brought the first news of 
the capture of the town — though not of the fort — to Lord Dalhousie, 
went on to the camp of the Commander-in-Chief, and was present, on 
the 13th, at the battle of Chillianwallah. His beneficent influence 
had made itself felt even before he arrived. The Sikhs had not been 
slow to remark that the outbreak had followed so soon after his de- 
parture, and they hoped that his return might be the signal for a pacifi- 
cation. This general belief in the Ikbal (prestige) of Henry Lawrence 
was, in itself, enough to arouse the spirit of Lord Dalhousie, to make 
him put his foot down, and show his subordinate that, Ikbal or no 
Ikbal, it was Lord Dalhousie, and not Henry Lawrence, who would 
have the last word on each question as it came up. Nor can it be said 
that he was wrong in this. There had been rumours afloat that Moolraj 
intended to surrender to Sir Henry Lawrence as soon as he arrived, in 
the hope of getting more favourable terms from him than could be got 
from any one else. But a letter written on December 12 from Sirhind, 
by the Governor-General, and intended to meet Sir Henry Lawrence 
on his arrival, was calculated to remove all misconception on this 
point : — 

I have to inform you that I will grant no terms whatever to Moolraj, 
nor listen to any proposal but unconditional surrender. If he is captured 
he shall have what he does not deserve — a fair trial ; and if, on that trial, 
he shall prove the traitor he is, for months in arms against the British 
Government, or accessory to the murder of British officers, then, as sure 


as I live, he shall die. But you have one answer alone to give him now 
— unconditional surrender. I have told you what will follow it. 

An earlier letter, written on November 13 from Allahabad, before 
the campaign had well begun, shows that Lord Dalhousie had, even 
then, made up his mind as to the necessity of annexation ; and there 
will be few who have followed the history thus far who will not agree 
with him on this point rather than with Henry Lawrence. 

Our ulterior policy (he says) need not be promulgated till Mooltan 
has been taken and the Sikh rising has been met and crushed ; but I 
confess I see no halting-place midway any longer. There was no more 
sincere friend of Lord Hardinge's policy, to establish a strong Hindu 
government between the Sutlej and the Khyber, than I. I have done all 
that man could do to support such a government, and to sustain that 
policy. I no longer believe it feasible to do so, and I must act according 
to the best of my judgment in what is before us. 

On January 18, five days after Chillianwallah, Henry Lawrence 
looked in upon his old quarters at Lahore, of which he was again to 
take charge as Resident on the 1st of the following month, and there, 
as the result of the ' victory ' of Chillianwallah, he found the Briga- 
dier in command talking of building up the gates and breaking down 
the bridges, to delay the onward march of the ' conquered ' Sikhs ! 

You say you are grieved (says Lord Dalhousie to him) at all you saw 
and heard at Lahore ; so am I — so I have long been ; but I don't know 
whether our griefs are on the same tack. 

In other letters from Ferozepore he writes : — 

Never mind what other people say about your having authority over the 
Sutlej Provinces, or whether they like it or not. I think it expedient you 
should have it for the public good, and that's enough for anybody. Rub 

Colonel 's nose in the dirt if it's necessary. General is beyond 

all human patience and endurance. Pray coax or frighten Brigadier 


The letter in which Lord Dalhousie, who had so lately arrived in 
India and had never even seen the Punjab, severely reprimanded 
Henry Lawrence — not for a proclamation which he had issued on 
his own authority, but for the draft of one which he, with the full 
consent of the Governor- General, had prepared and then humbly 
submitted again to him for his approval, simply because he had in- 
serted in it some slight expression of his personal feelings for a brave 
foe — has already been published, in great part, by Herman Merivale, 

1848 SECOND SIKH WAR. 235 

in his life of Sir Henry Lawrence. 1 It need not, therefore, be quoted 
again here. The reception of such a letter would have been gall and 
wormwood to a man of a far less sensitive and generous nature than 
Henry Lawrence, and it is painful to those who know what he had 
done and what he was, to read it even now. 

Such is the lot, the unenviable, but, perhaps, inevitable, lot of 
some of the best of our Indian public servants. And it is a draw- 
back to their condition which the changing circumstances of the 
Government of India, the rapidity of communication between it and 
England, the increasing connection of European with Indian politics, 
and the party spirit thus imported into regions which should be looked 
upon as beyond its reach, seems likely, in the future, to increase 
rather than to diminish. A new Viceroy comes out, bent, wisely or 
unwisely, on reversing the policy of his predecessor, or, it may be, of 
all the wisest of his predecessors. In order to do so, he has to 
manipulate or get rid of the subordinate agents of that policy, and 
it will depend to a great extent upon his tact, his sympathy, and his 
large-heartedness, whether he eases their fall, or intensifies its bitter- 
ness. It will sometimes happen that the more an agent has been 
trusted by one Governor-General, the less he will be trusted by his 
successor ; the more he knows of the merits of a particular question, 
the less will his opinion be asked upon it. It is, perhaps, only human 
nature that it should be so. The Athenian rustic was not the only 
person in the world who would have been glad to banish Aristides, 
because he was tired of hearing him called the Just. The considera- 
tion, therefore, with which an Indian officer is treated by a new 
Governor-General is, sometimes, likely to be in inverse proportion to 
his merits. But Lord Dalhousie, whatever his faults, had a single 
eye to the public good, and a determination to learn all that was to 
be said upon a subject before he made up his mind upon it. He 
gave his confidence freely to any subordinate whom he recognised as 
worth it, provided only that that subordinate, after he had delivered 
his protest, would loyally do his bidding ; and when a man was a 
good man, Lord Dalhousie's worst enemies will admit that he never 
failed to recognise him as such. 'You give,' he says to Henry 
Lawrence on February 13, 'and will, I hope, continue to give, me 
your views frankly. If we differ, I shall say so ; but my saying so ' 
— and here he undoubtedly hits a blemish in Henry's mental con- 

1 Vol. ii. p. 123. 


stitution — ' ought not to be interpreted to mean want of confidence.' 
And, even earlier, on February 3, 'I assured you lately,' he says, 
' with entire sincerity, that I have full confidence in your ability, 
your vigour, and your experience. My confidence in your posses- 
sion of these qualities will always ensure that any view you submit 
shall receive from me the most respectful and mature consider- 

With this explanation of what I believe to have been the attitude 
of Lord Dalhousie towards his subordinates, I may proceed to give 
a few of the more striking passages from his letters, illustrating his 
force of expression, his self-reliance, his determination to have his 
own way, and his indignation — possibly, sometimes, the shortsighted 
indignation of a civilian who could not see all the difficulties which 
were visible to the military eye — at the blunders and shortcomings of 
the military authorities, especially of the brave old Commander-in- 

One question which had already called down the Olympian 
thunders on the devoted head of Henry Lawrence was the question 
which was looming in the distance, of the treatment of the con- 
quered — if, indeed, they ever should be conquered — Sirdars. Henry 
Lawrence, who knew them and was known by them so well, was, with 
his usual generosity, in favour of giving them the easiest terms com- 
patible with safety. But Lord Dalhousie would hear of nothing of 
the kind. ' Their lives and their subsistence ' was all that he would 
promise to these proud and powerful nobles, even if they submitted 
at once. And when, at last, they fell into his hands he was as good 
as his word. The more formidable of their number he proposed to 
banish. ' Chuttur Sing and Shere Sing cannot be allowed to live at 
home and weave treachery at leisure.' Their chivalrous treatment of 
the captive George Lawrence and of the English ladies, about whose 
release Lord Dalhousie, throughout his correspondence, shows the 
tenderest interest, seemed to him to be no reason at all for dealing 
chivalrously with them. 'As for promising easier terms because they 
have treated the prisoners well, I hold a different view. I hold that 
Chuttur Sing and his sons, in seizing their best friends and making 
them prisoners, have shown themselves unmitigated ruffians ; and 
that they have not ill-treated them into the bargain, rescues them 
from irrecoverable infamy and nothing more.' In vain, did Henry 
Lawrence plead, day after day, with touching earnestness for the less 
guilty Sirdars. 

1848 SECOND SIKH WAR. 237 

Nothing (replied Lord Dalhousie) is granted to them but mainte- 
nance. The amount of that is open to discussion, but their property of 
every kind will be confiscated to the State. ... In the interim, let them 
be placed somewhere under surveillance ; but attach their property till 
their destination is decided. If they run away, our contract is void. If 
they are caught, I will imprison them. And if they raise tumult again, 
I will hang them, as sure as they now live, and I live then. 

Everything in camp (he says on February 11), as far as the Com- 
mander-in-Chief is concerned, grows worse and worse. ... I expected 
no good tidings, and the best news which I now hope for is, that his 
Excellency has not had his ' blood put up,' but has waited the few days 
which will give him reinforcements, that will enable him to make sure 
work of the next action. I have written to him to-day on his future pro- 
ceedings in terms which I am aware will be very distasteful to him, but 
which it is both necessary that I should employ as a caution to him, and 
prudent that I should address to him in relief of my own responsibility. 

On the following day, referring to a request of Henry Lawrence 
that he might go to the camp and throw his influence into the scale 
on the side of vigour as well as prudence, he writes thus : — 

It is already too notorious that neither you nor anybody else can 
exercise any wholesome influence on the mind of the Commander-in- 
Chief; if you could have done so, the action of Chillianwallah would 
never have been fought as it was fought. . . . All that we can do will 
hardly restore the prestige of our power in India, and of our military 
superiority, partly from the evidence of facts, and partly from the unwise 
and unpatriotic and contemptible croaking in public of the European 
community itself all over India, high and low. . . . Moreover, I have my 
orders. I am ordered, in the first instance, to conquer the country. 
Please God, I will obey. 

Lord Gough, it should be remarked here, had been waiting by 
Lord Dalhousie's own directions, for the reinforcements with which 
General Whish was, at that moment, hurrying up from Mooltan, 
before he should risk another battle. And it was during this inaction 
that news arrived that the enemy, who had so long been encamped 
opposite us at Russool, had suddenly left their encampment and had 
gone off, Heaven knew where ; for some of our informants said they 
were marching eastward for Jhelum, others westward for Gujerat ! 

Well may you say (writes Lord Dalhousie to Henry Lawrence on 
February 15) that it is wonderful that the Sikhs are allowed so to play 
around us. Other and stronger epithets would not be less applicable. I 
have a letter to-day from the Commander-in-Chief. He is utterly mystified. 


The mystery was soon cleared up, and it was found that Shere 
Sing had turned Lord Gough's right, had got into his rear, had estab- 
lished his head-quarters at Gujerat, and was thus threatening, or 
appearing to threaten, an advance on the ill-protected city of Lahore. 

Lord Gough, meanwhile, who had been complaining, for a month 
past, of the encumbrance of his heavy baggage, but had declined to 
move it from his camp, found it impossible to follow up the enemy 
closely, or even to detach a brigade to guard the crossing of the river. 

It is sad work (says Lord Dalhousie) to be thus out-generalled day 
after day. ... I wait, as patiently as I may, the announcement of where 
the enemy are, or what we are doing. At present I have only the intelli- 
gence of the Commander-in-Chief, which might be stereotyped, that 'the 
order is countermanded till to-morrow? 

A letter written by Lord Dalhousie to Henry Lawrence, on 
February 20, is so intensely characteristic of the man, shows so 
vividly his strength of mind, his strength of will, his strength of ex- 
pression, and at the same time proves so clearly that the submission 
which he required from his subordinates he equally expected them, 
in their turn, to require from theirs, that T make no apology for 
quoting it almost in full : — 

The tidings you send, on the whole, are satisfactory, and I pray 
God we may, for the sake of all, and for the peace of this country, have 
achieved a 'crowning' victory before long. I observe what you say re- 
garding General Campbell (Sir Colin) having told you that there was 
' no thought of crossing the Jhelum this season.' Your brother will have 
ere this reassured you on that point, which he incidentally mentioned 
to me. What ' thought ' the camp of the Commander-in-Chief has signi- 
fies very little. The camp's business is to find fighting ; I find thought ; 
and such thought as the camp has hitherto found is of such d — d bad 
quality, that it does not induce me to forego the exercise of my proper 
functions. It is too late to enter to-night into the details of your letter. 
I will only say now generally, that the camp will cross the Jhelum this 
season, and, please God, the Indus also ; that the Commander-in-Chief 
and General Thackwell, or the Departments, will not cross it ; that 
General Gilbert will command, and I hope the job will be well done. 
All this I communicated to the Commander-in-Chief some time ago, 
authorising him, and requiring him, in the event of the opportunity pre- 
senting itself, to make the arrangements himself, and expedite matters 
as much as possible. 

I am greatly surprised with what you write to me about Major 
Edwardes, or rather, I should say I am greatly vexed, but not surprised 

1848 SECOND SIKH WAR. 239 

at all. [Edwardes, it should be explained here, had disbanded a Pathan 
regiment, whose fidelity he had suspected, without any authorisation from 
Sir Henry Lawrence.] From the tone of your letter, I perceive it is not 
necessary to say that you should pull up Major Edwardes for this at once. 
But I further wish to repeat what I said before, that there are more than 
Major Edwardes in the Residency who appear to consider themselves, 
nowadays, as Governor-General at least. The sooner you set about dis- 
enchanting their minds of this illusion the better for your comfort and 
their own. I don't doubt you will find bit and martingale for them 
speedily. For my part, I will not stand it in quieter times for half-an- 
hour, and will come down unmistakably upon any one of them who may 
'try it on,' from Major Edwardes, C.B., down to the latest enlisted general-' 
ensign-plenipotentiary on the establishment. To-morrow I will write 


Believe me, 

Yours sincerely, 


The admirers of Lord Dalhousie — and it must be admitted that 
these letters, incisive and racy, and often opportune, as they are, are 
not calculated to make anyone love him— and the admirers of Lord 
Gough, who, in spite of his blunders and vacillation, was, in virtue of 
his gallantry and martial bearing, beloved by his army, will, alike, 
reflect with pleasure that the Commander-in-Chief, while he was the 
object of such unsparing sarcasm and animadversion, was preparing 
the way, by a careful exploration of the ground, and by a series of 
masterly movements, for as crowning a victory as ever smiled upon 
our arms in India. The battle of Gujerat was fought on February 
21. With 20,000 men and a hundred guns, Lord Gough attacked 
the Sikhs, who were in a position chosen and fortified by themselves 
and numbered 50,000 men armed with sixty guns. Taught by bitter 
experience, or influenced, it may be, by the strong letters of Lord 
Dalhousie, which I have before me, he changed his tactics and, with 
the help of the skilled advice of Sir John Cheape of the Engineers 
and Sir Patrick Grant, his son-in-law, kept himself and his men in 
check till the artillery, in which our real strength lay, had done its 
proper work. The Sikhs, even after their guns were silenced, fought 
like heroes, but they were utterly routed ; and Gilbert, ' the best rider 
in India,' in a ride of many days, followed up the wreck of their army, 
till, at length, it surrendered with its guns, its ammunition, and — more 
important than all in Lord Dalhousie's eyes — its English prisoners. 

Few more striking scenes have ever been witnessed in India than 


this final submission of the Sikh army, the last remnant of the great 
Khalsa commonwealth. ' With noble self-restraint ' — to use the words 
of Edwin Arnold — * thirty-five chiefs laid down their swords at Gilbert's 
feet, while the Sikh soldiers, advancing, one by one, to the file of the 
English drawn across the road, flung down tulwar, matchlock, and 
shield upon the growing heap of arms, salaamed to them as to the 
"spirit of the steel," and passed through the open line, no longer 
soldiers.' But it must have been a more touching sight still, when 
— as it has been described to me by eye-witnesses — each horseman 
among them had to part, for the last time, from the animal which he 
regarded as part of himself— from the gallant charger which had 
borne him in safety in many an irresistible charge over many a battle- 
field. This was too much even for Sikh endurance. He caressed 
and patted his faithful companion on every part of his body, and 
then turned resolutely away. But his resolution failed him. He 
turned back, again and again, to give one caress more, and then, as 
he tore himself away for the very last time, brushed a teardrop from 
his eye, and exclaimed, in words which give the key to so much of 
the history of the relations of the Sikhs to us, their manly resistance, 
and their not less manly submission to the inevitable, ' Runjeet Sing 
is dead to-day ! ' 

But Gilbert's task was not yet done. Pursuing his headlong 
career further still, he drove the Afghan contingent over the Indus, 
through Peshawur, and right up to the portals, the happily forbidding 
portals, of the Khyber. The battle of Gujerat thus brought to a 
close, not the campaign only but the war. All previous shortcomings 
were forgotten in the enthusiasm of victory, and the victor of Gujerat 
was able, with a good grace, to hand over the command to Sir Charles 
Napier, who had been sent out, in hot haste, to supersede him, and 
arrived from England early in May. 

The whole of the Punjab, together with Peshawur and the Trans- 
Indus provinces, now lay at Lord Dalhousie's feet as the prize of 
victory ; and he was not the man to shrink, either on general or on 
special grounds, from appropriating the prize. ' I take this oppor- 
tunity,' he says in one of his State papers written a year or two later, 
'of recording my strong and deliberate opinion, that, in the exercise 
of a sound and wise policy, the British Government is bound not to 
put aside or neglect such rightful opportunities of acquiring territory 
or revenue as may from time to time present themselves ' — a sentence 
of death, just or unjust, necessary or unnecessary, expedient or in- 

1848 SECOND SIKH WAR. 241 

expedient, upon how many native states ! But, in the case of the 
Punjab, there could be no question about the justice, and little about 
the expediency or necessity, of applying the general rule. Twice 
the Sikhs had attacked us unprovoked, and, the second time, under 
circumstances which laid them open to the charge of treachery and 
ingratitude, as well as deadly hostility. The experiment of sustaining 
the Khalsa against its own internal weakness had been tried honestly, 
and under the most favourable circumstances, by Lord Dalhousie as 
well as by Lord Hardinge, by John as well as by Henry Lawrence, 
and it had failed. We had remained in the country, to begin with, 
against our own wishes, and only at the unanimous and urgent request 
of the Sirdars ; and no sooner had we acceded to their importunity 
than they treacherously rose against us in arms, and, once again, by 
their enthusiasm, their discipline, and their valour, imperilled the 
safety of our Indian Empire. 

Lord Dalhousie had made up his mind at an early point in the 
struggle as to what must be its ultimate result, and even so chivalrous 
a supporter of native states and rights as Henry Lawrence had always 
been, had not done more than meet his views with a half-hearted 
opposition. If he was disposed to deny the expediency, he was forced 
to admit the justice of annexation. John, with clearer views of what 
the safety of India required, thought it to be expedient as well as just. 
The two brothers, as I gather from the few papers relating to this 
time which I have before me, had been living together at Lahore 
since January. And when an interview between the Governor- 
General and the Resident was deemed necessary to arrange for the 
impending annexation, we can hardly wonder if the Resident, instead 
of going himself, preferred to send his brother John on an errand 
which must have been so distasteful to him. The momentous inter- 
view took place at Ferozepore on March 1 2 ; and on the following 
day, after ' two long conversations,' John returned to Lahore, ' charged 
to convey to his brother the substance ' of what they had been dis- 
cussing, both as to Lord Dalhousie's intentions and as to the mode of 
carrying them into execution. It was, I believe, the first time that 
Lord Dalhousie had set eyes upon the man who was so soon to 
become the most famous of all his lieutenants. But, drawing his 
conclusions from the vigour he had shown as Magistrate of Delhi 
during the first Sikh war, from the manner in which he had governed 
the Jullundur Doab in peace and in war, and from his correspondence 
with the Secretary to Government which he had seen and studied, he 

vol. 1. R 


had already taken the measure of the man, and had begun to rate 
him at his proper value. ' What is to be done ? ' asked Lord Dal- 
housie, self-reliant and self-sufficing as he was, of the subordinate, 
whose advice he was hereafter so often to ask, and, even when the 
answer given did not harmonise with his previous views, he was not 
seldom to take — ' what is to be done with the Punjab now ? ' and 
John Lawrence, who knew well that his questioner had made up his 
mind, at all hazards, ultimately to annex the conquered province, 
answered with characteristic brevity, ' Annex it now.' Difficulty after 
difficulty was started by the Governor-General, but as Demosthenes, 
Avhen asked what was the first, the second, and the third requisite of 
an orator, replied in one word, ' Action ; action ; action,' so John 
Lawrence met each difficulty as it was started with what he considered 
to be the best and the only sufficient method of meeting it — ' Annex 
it 'now ; annex it now ; annex it now.' Immediate annexation 
would be easy while the people were still crushed by their defeat ; 
it would anticipate the difficulties and dangers of the hot weather, 
which the last year had brought into such fatal prominence ; finally, 
it would at once anticipate and clinch the determination of the 
Directors at home. 

On March 29, Lord Dalhousie sent his Secretary, Sir Henry 
Elliot, to Lahore, charged to declare publicly his determination 
respecting the Punjab ; and, on the following day, in presence of Sir 
Henry Lawrence, the Resident, and his brother John ; in presence 
of the faithful remnant of the Sikh Durbar ; in presence also of the 
young Maharaja, who took his seat, for the last time, on the throne of 
Runjeet Sing, Elliot read aloud the fateful proclamation. The dynasty 
of Runjeet Sing was to be deposed ; the young Maharaja was to 
receive 50,000/. a year, and to have the right of residing wherever he 
liked, outside the limits of the Punjab ; and the whole of the terri- 
tories of the five rivers, together with the Crown property and jewels, 
above all, the peerless Koh-i-noor, were to belong to the British. 
The proclamation was received by those present with silence and 
almost with indifference. It was a step fraught indeed with tremen- 
dous possibilities for good and evil. It overthrew' the fondest hopes 
and the most generous aspirations of Henry Lawrence's life, but it 
was justified by what had gone before it, and the most resolute 
opponent of unnecessary annexations will admit that it has been more 
than justified by its results. 




The Punjab had been annexed, but how was it to be governed ? It 
might be placed under a purely military government, like that of 
Scinde — a system dear to the heart of the conqueror of Scinde, the 
self-willed and brilliant Sir Charles Napier, who was now on the 
point of landing in India as Commander-in-Chief, who despised all 
civilians as such, but reserved a special portion of his hatred, as well 
as scorn, for those ' soldier politicals ' who, by doffing the red coat 
and donning the black, had shown that they deliberately chose the 
darkness rather than the light, and yet who — as even he could not 
deny— had gone far to make India what it was. Or, again, the pre- 
cedent afforded by most of our earlier and more settled provinces 
might be followed ; the Punjab might have a purely civil government, 
under the control of a trained civilian, whose primary object it would 
be, not to make it a stepping-stone to further conquests beyond, but 
to prove to the East India Company that it could be well governed, 
and yet turn out to be a financial, as well as a military and political ac- 
quisition. This was the system which it might have been expected 
would have been preferred by a Governor-General who had never 
heard a shot fired till he reached the Sikh frontier, and who, it was 
then believed, cherished almost as great a dislike for military as did 
Sir Charles Napier for civil rule. 

Was, then, Sir Charles Napier or Lord Dalhousie to have his 
way ? Neither, and yet both. Both, that is, in part. The scheme 
upon which Lord Dalhousie hit, as the result of his personal know- 
ledge of the men who had the best claim to administer the annexed 
province, was as novel in the history of our Indian Empire as it was, 
at first sight, unpromising. The Punjab was to be governed, not by 
any one man, however eminent he might be, either as a soldier, or as 
a statesman, or as a mixture of both, but by a Board, the members of 
which were to be drawn from both branches of the service, and were 


to work under a system of 'divided labour, but of common responsi- 

' A Board,' remarks Sir Charles Napier, when criticising the new 
arrangement, ' rarely has any talent.' And other and less unfriendly 
observers, knowing the antagonistic and self-contradictory elements 
which this particular Board contained, remarked that it was self- 
condemned from its birth ; that it contained within itself the seeds 
of its own dissolution. There was truth in these sayings. But it was 
only a small portion of the truth. A Board is in itself a compromise, 
and, therefore, cannot possibly have the unity, the rapidity, the concen- 
tration, the individuality, which a single mind — especially if that single 
mind has within it a spark of the sacred fire of genius — can bring to 
bear on those whom it governs. Again, it was inevitable that the 
seething elements implied by the presence of such diverse and yet 
such masterful spirits as Henry and John Lawrence would one day 
become explosive. A volcano may be quiescent for many a year, 
but it is a volcano still. 

It does not follow, however, because the Board was, at no distant 
day, doomed to die, that therefore it was stillborn. It did pre- 
cisely the work which it was expected and meant to do, and which, 
certainly, no one of itst hree members would have done so well by 
himself. In the three years of its existence, it accomplished, at 
whatever cost to the peace of mind of its constituent parts, a task, of 
which no one of them need have been ashamed, even if it had been 
the result of a lifetime. If the Board succeeded in reducing the most 
warlike and turbulent people who had ever crossed our path in 
India to submision, and made them not only submissive but con- 
tented ; if it, literally as well as figuratively, beat their swords into 
ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks ; if, in dealing with 
the widely different races and classes which the Punjab contained, it 
abolished an old system and introduced a new, with, on the whole, the 
minimum of inconvenience or injury to the few and the maximum of 
benefit to the many — and that it did all this, and a good deal more 
than this, I hope now to show — then it did a noble work ; it was its 
own best justification, and abundantly answered alike the expectations 
of its founder and the highest hopes of the distinguished men of whom 
it was composed. 

The Board was to consist of three members. At the head of it, 
as of prescriptive right, came the man who had filled the highest post 
in the country before its annexation, first as Resident, and then, as he 


might almost be called, Regent— the chivalrous and high-spirited, the 
eager and indefatigable, Henry Lawrence. That he was appointed to 
the first place in the administration of the new province is almost as 
creditable to a man of the autocratic tendencies of Lord Dalhousie 
as to Henry Lawrence himself. The friend and mentor of Lord 
Hardinge had already had many a sharp brush with Lord Hardinge's 
successor, and there was an antagonism of nature between the two 
men which each must have felt that no amount of mutual for- 
bearance could bridge over. But Lord Dalhousie, as I have shown, 
was able to respect and to trust those from whom he differed, if he 
knew that they had the root of the matter in them. And he was 
certainly not the man to pass over, on the score of mere imcapability of 
temperament, the pre-eminent claims which Henry Lawrence's pre- 
vious services, his knowledge of the Sikhs, and his influence over 
them gave him. Had Lord Dalhousie been anxious to clear him out 
of his path and to put somebody else in his place who would be more 
congenial to himself, who would prove a mere tool in his hands, 
and would be content to register and carry out his orders, it would 
have been easy for him to do so without incurring any obloquy in the 
process. For Henry Lawrence, finding that his scruples against annex- 
ation had been finally overruled, voluntarily placed his resignation 
in Lord Dalhousie's hands, and would, certainly, have carried his 
purpose out had not Lord Dalhousie urged him to reconsider it, on 
the unanswerable plea that the objects dearest to his heart could not 
be thwarted and might be furthered by his remaining at Lahore. The 
argument was as honourable to Lord Dalhousie, who, knowing the 
differences between himself and his subordinate, could go out of his 
way to employ it, as to Henry Lawrence, who, even in the bitterness 
of his soul, could recognise its binding force. 

Next to Henry Lawrence on the Board, in point of influence, if 
not of seniority, and marked out for it by his family name, and by 
his services in the Delhi district, in the Jullundur Doab, and at 
Lahore itself, came Henry Lawrence's brother, John. His know- 
ledge of the Sikh races was only less than that of his brother ; while, 
in mastery of details, in financial skill, in power of continuous work, 
and in civil training generally, he was far superior to him. A man 
who had ruled the Jullundur Doab during the last two years in the 
way in which John Lawrence had ruled it, and with the results which 
the prolonged and doubtful struggle of the second Sikh war had 
brought into full relief, was clearly the man to have a potential voice 

246 LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. 1849-52- 

in the rule of the four other Doabs which the fortune of war had 
now thrown into our hands. 

But a Board must consist of more than two members, and Charles 
Greville Mansel, the third member invited to serve upon it, was a 
man of more equable and philosophic temperament than either of 
the Lawrences. Like John, he was a civilian who had served his 
apprenticeship in the best school then known in India — that of 
Mertins Bird and Thomason, in the North- West. He was a man of 
contemplation rather than of action, and it was perhaps well that he 
was so ; for the two brothers — with all their high mental gifts — were 
pre-eminently men of action. Mansel thus served as a foil to them 
both, in a different sense from that in which they served as a foil to 
each other. He was admirably fitted to discover the weak points in 
any course of action which was proposed, and, with somewhat irri- 
tating impartiality, would argue with John in favour of Henry's 
views, and with Henry in favour of John's. He would thus throw 
the ' dry light of the intellect ' on questions which might otherwise 
have been seen, owing either to the aristocratic leanings of Henry or 
the democratic leanings of John, through a too highly coloured 
medium. If he was not good at carrying out into action any views 
of his own, it is probable that the views of his colleagues, which they 
might have been anxious, in the exuberance of their energy, to carry 
out at once, often passed, owing to his idiosyncrasies, through a 
sifting process for which they were seldom the worse, and sometimes 
much the better. 

The balance between the civil and military elements aimed at by 
Lord Dalhousie in the construction of the Board itself, was scrupu- 
lously observed also in the selection of those who were to work under 
it. Besides George Christian, the Secretary, upon whom John 
Lawrence had long fixed his eye, and Melvill, who was specially 
appointed by Lord Dalhousie to the post of Assistant-Secretary, 
there were to be four Commissioners for the four Divisions of the 
new province — Lahore, Jhelum, Mooltan, and Leia ; while beneath 
them, again, came some fifty-two Deputy and Assistant-Commissioners, 
who were selected in as nearly as possible equal numbers from the 
civil and military services. 'You shall have,' wrote Lord Dalhousie 
to Henry Lawrence, in anticipation of the annexation, on February 
26, ' the best men in India to help you — your brother John to begin 
with.' And he was as good as his word. 

But, before I go on to describe the work done by the Board in 


general, and, so far as it is possible to distinguish between man and 
man, the part in it borne by John Lawrence in particular, it will be 
well to give some slight notion of the size, the inhabitants, and the 
leading physical characteristics of the country which they were to 
administer, and which, so long as the world lasts, it may safely be 
predicted, will be bound up with the name of Lawrence. 

The five magnificent streams— the Sutlej, the Beas, the Ravi, the 
Chenab, and the Jhelum — which have given the name of ' Punjab ' 
to the country which they traverse, all rise amidst the snowy peaks of 
the Himalayas, all flow in the same general direction, north-east to 
south-west, and all are ultimately united in the vast bosom of the 
Indus. Each of the five tracts of country enclosed by these six 
rivers narrows gradually from north to south, and is known by the 
name of Doab (the two rivers). The Jullundur Doab, between the 
Sutlej and the Beas, is the richest and most peaceful of them all. It 
had been under John Lawrence's rule for two years past, and its 
principal features have been sufficiently described already. The 
Bari Doab, which comes next, between the Beas and the Ravi, is the 
most important, and, in its northern part at least, the most populous 
of the five. It contains the political capital of the whole country, 
Lahore ; and the commercial and religious capital, Umritsur. It is 
the Manjha, or ' middle home ' of the Sikh nation, which supplied 
the Sikh religion with its most revered Gurus ; Runjeet's court 
with its most powerful Sirdars ; and Runjeet's ever-victorious army 
with its most redoubtable warriors. Next, beyond the Bari Doab, 
between the Ravi and the Chenab, comes the Rechna Doab ; and 
beyond it, again, between the Chenab and the Jhelum, the Jetch 
Doab, containing the most famous battle-fields of the war which w r as 
just over, Chillian wallah and Goojerat. Last, comes the Sind Saugar, 
or 'ocean of the Indus,' Doab — so called from the vast tracts of 
country exposed to the inundation of the river — the largest, the most 
thinly inhabited, and the most sterile of all. 

Beyond the Indus, between it and the Suliman range, lies the 
Peshawur valley and the district of the three Deras, or ' camping- 
grounds,' of Afghan chiefs — Dera Ismael, Dera Futteh, and Dera 
Ghazi Khan, hence called the Derajat. It forms no part of the 
Punjab proper, but on the due arrangements for its defence depends, 
as we shall see hereafter, the security of the province, and so, of the 
whole of our Indian Empire. 

For the width of a few miles on each side of the six rivers of the 


Punjab there runs a fertile tract of country, the soil of which is irri- 
gated by their superfluous waters, and bears abundant crops. But far 
richer, far more extensive, and far more blest in every way by nature 
than these narrow strips, is the belt of land which lies beneath the 
shadow of the Himalayas, and forms the northern portion of the 
three central Doabs. It has a comparatively temperate climate, a 
fair rainfall, innumerable streams and streamlets, the feeders of the 
great rivers ; and it yields, with an outlay of little labour and of less 
skill, two abundant harvests in the year. If the whole of the Punjab 
were equal to this, its richest part, it might almost challenge com- 
parison with Bengal. But this is far from being the case. For 
between the narrow belts of rich land, which owe their existence to 
the great rivers, there lie vast arid tracts which are covered, not with 
waving crops of corn or cotton, of indigo or tobacco, but with scanty 
and coarse grass, or with jungles of tamarisks and thorns. The soil 
is often impregnated with soda or salt ; the heat is terrible ; and the 
jungles are the haunt of wild beasts, or of wilder men, whose liveli- 
hood has been gained, from time immemorial, by cattle-lifting from 
the more cultivated districts. 

The Punjab, therefore, is a country of extremes. One part of it 
is as populous as Bengal, in another there is hardly a human habita- 
tion to be seen ; one part smiles as ' the garden of the Lord,' another 
is as bare and as barren as the deserts of Scinde or Rajpootana. 
The hill districts, with their mountain sanataria, from Murree away to 
Dalhousie, and thence to the Kangra valley, to Dhurmsala, or to 
Simla, are heavens upon earth, pleasant even in the hot season. The 
plains at Lahore, for instance, and at Mooltan, are almost insupport- 
able to Europeans from the heat. When the followers of the Arabian 
prophet demurred to fighting beneath the full blaze of an Arabian 
sun, because it was so hot, the prophet replied that ' hell was hotter 
still,' and on they went to victory or death. But a European who is 
unlucky enough to find himself at Mooltan in the hot season, will be 
disposed rather to agree with the truth expressed in the native proverb : 
1 When God had Mooltan ready for His purpose, why did He make 

The boundaries of the Punjab and of India are clearly marked 
out by the hand of Nature. On the north, the Himalayas give it 
an absolute security from Chinese or Tartar, or even Russian scares ; 
while on the west, the range of the Suliman mountains, which runs 
parallel with the Indus, forms an almost equally impenetrable barrier. 


It is true, indeed, that the Suliman range is traversed by passes 
which, under favourable circumstances, have given an entrance to 
the invading armies of Alexander the Great and Timour the Tartar, 
of Baber and Nadir Shah. But those conquerors were opposed by 
no foe worthy of the name. And, happily for us, here, again, range 
upon range rises behind the main mountain wall, and beyond these, 
once more, are ' wilds immeasurably spread,' which, being inhabited 
by races as rough, as wild, and as inhospitable as the soil on which 
they dwell, altogether form an all but impregnable protection to 
India. No better series of defences, indeed, scientific or natural, 
could possibly be desired against any foe who comes from beyond 
Afghanistan ; and no strong foe, it should be remarked, can ever 
come from within it. 

The only range of mountains within the limits of the Punjab is the 
Salt range, which, crossing the Indus at Kalabagh and stretching 
eastward to Pind Dadun Khan on the Jhelum, divides the Sind 
Saugar Doab into two parts. Commercially it is most important ; 
for salt is one of the first requisites of life, and the supply it yields is 
quite unlimited. Salt-springs issue everywhere from its base, and at 
Kalabagh, in particular, produce a peculiarly picturesque effect, by en- 
crusting with a snowy whiteness the blood-red rocks around. North 
of the Salt range is the hilly district of Rawul Pindi ; and beyond that, 
again, the wildly mountainous country of Huzara, a country of crags 
and caves, the abode of mountain robbers who had levied black-mail 
on the surrounding peoples from the time of Alexander downwards, 
.and had never yet been conquered by force or fraud, but w r ere to 
yield now a willing obedience to the fatherly kindness of James 
Abbott, and his worthy successor, John Becher. 

The races inhabiting the Punjab are as varied as are its physical 
features. The Sikhs proper, though they form the flower and the 
sinew of the population, are, it must always be remembered, only a 
fraction, perhaps a sixth part, of the whole. The aboriginal Goojurs 
and Gukkurs, together with the Rajpoots and other Hindu races, 
make up another sixth ; and the remainder — the inhabitants, that is, 
of the Sind Saugar Doab, of the district round Mooltan, of Huzara, 
of Peshawur, and of the Derajat generally — are all, more or less, 
Mussulman. It must have given no slight satisfaction to the English 
conquerors of the Punjab, to reflect that, if they had swept away the 
famous empire of the Sikhs, they had, at least, given religious freedom 
and security from oppression to subject races who were four times as 


numerous. The Sikhs were the bravest and most chivalrous race in 
India. They had done their best against us in two great wars, and 
they now seemed disposed to submit with manly self-restraint to our 
superior power, if only we used it with equity and toleration. 

A more serious difficulty was to be found in those wild and war- 
like tribes which line our whole western frontier, from the north of 
Huzara right down to Scinde. These tribes had, for ages, carried on 
an internecine warfare with the more peaceful and settled inhabitants 
of the plains below, and the heirs to the rich inheritance of Runjeet 
Sing could hardly complain if they had to take the bad part of the 
bargain with the good. It needs only a glance at the position of 
Peshawur — the prize for which Afghan and Sikh have so often con- 
tended — with the Khyber frowning in its front, and with mountains 
enclosing it on three sides, all of them inhabited by tribes who have, 
from time immemorial, levied black-mail on all travellers passing 
through their territory, and have received the presents, the bribes, 
or the tribute of some of the greatest conquerors the world has seen, 
while they themselves have seldom paid toll or tax to any one — to 
see that the rich valley is a veritable apple of discord, for the posses- 
sion of which those who hold it are likely to have to pay in the shape 
of large armaments, of chronic anxiety, of occasional retributory 
expeditions, and, once and again, unless wisdom holds the helm at 
Calcutta, of a distant and aggressive war in which victory may be even 
more disastrous than defeat. 

And what is true of the Peshawur district is true also, in a less 
degree, of the whole frontier line beyond the Indus — of the valley of 
Kohat, for instance, which is only to be approached from Peshawur 
by two long and dangerous and waterless passes through the Afridi 
territory ; of the valley of Bunnoo, which is only accessible from Kohat 
by just such another pair of passes ; and so on, along the whole 
length of the Suliman range, with its robber-haunted defiles, and 
the champaign of the Derajat lying at its feet as its natural prey. 
Altogether, it was calculated that these frontier tribes could put into 
the field against us 100,000 men, all fanatical, all Mohammedans, all 
well* armed, all excellent marksmen, and all inhabiting a country 
admirably adapted for their own predatory warfare, but very ill 
suited for regular military operations. The arrangements for the 
defence of such a frontier were delicate and difficult enough, but 
upon their adequacy, as I have said, depended the security of all 
the rest 


Such, then, was the general nature of the country, and such the 
chief characteristics of the people with whom the newly formed Punjab 
Board had to deal. It remains to ask how far its task was facilitated 
or hindered by any existing political or social institutions, in particular, 
by what the masterful government of Runjeet Sing had done or had 
left undone. 

Runjeet was, without doubt, an able and vigorous ruler, but it was 
vigour and ability as men understand it in the East. A good army 
and a full exchequer were the two, and the only two, objects of his 
government. The stalwart frames and the martial and religious en- 
thusiasm of his subjects ensured the one, and the intoxication of 
victory after victory and of province added to province by the Khalsa 
commonwealth, made them ready to put up with the abuses which 
supplied the other. The difficult question as to what articles of con- 
sumption are most suitable for taxation, and what are not, gave Runjeet 
Sing no trouble at all, for he laid taxes on all alike. Houses and lands, 
stored grain and growing crops, exports and imports, manufactures 
and the natural products of the soil, luxuries and necessities, all con- 
tributed their quota to the great cause. Powerful provincial governors 
like Sawun Mull and the local tax-gatherers, or kardars, we're left free r 
provided that they remitted good round sums to Lahore, to squeeze 
their victims, and to feather their own nests pretty much as they liked. 
No statements of accounts were either expected or received from them 
by the Central Government. Runjeet's own account-book — the most 
natural one, perhaps, for a man who could neither read nor write — 
was a notched stick. The balance-sheet was the last thing in the 
world with which the paymaster of all the forces would have cared to 
trouble himself. We found when we annexed the country that no 
balance-sheet had been presented by him for sixteen years ! Punish- 
ments were few and simple. Thefts or ordinary murders were atoned 
for by payment of a fine ; crimes involving gross violence were 
punished by mutilation — the loss of the nose, the ears, or the hand ; 
while the worst criminals of all were hamstrung. It was reserved for 
Avitabile, an Italian soldier of fortune, and ruler ofthePeshawur dis- 
trict, to set the example of more barbarous punishments still. His 
rule was one of simple terror. He feared not God, neither regarded 
man. He revelled in extortion and in cruelty of every description. 
Those who opposed his relentless will he blew away from guns or 
turned out in the sun to die, naked and smeared with honey ; others 
he ordered to be sawn asunder between two planks, or to be impaled 


or flayed alive, sometimes, it is said, beginning the terrible operation 
with his own hands ! 

Of prisons there were few, and those few we found to be almost 
untenanted. The chief duty of Runjeet's police was not to prevent 
or to detect crime, but only to put down disorder and facilitate the 
movements of the army. Roads, in the proper sense of the word, 
there were none ; public conveyances and bridges none ; written law 
or special ministers of justice none ; schools, except of the most 
elementary kind, none ; hospitals and asylums, of course, none. If, 
therefore, the Board had very much to do they had little to undo. 
Henry Lawrence, helped by his assistants, had already, in his position 
as Resident, attacked the worst abuses, and had done something 
towards paying off the army, towards reforming the taxes, and putting 
a limit to the extortions of the tax-gatherers. And now, as President 
of the Board, with his brother John as his chief coadjutor, he was not 
likely to stop before he had finished the work to which he had put 
his hand, and had built up, in an astonishingly short space of time, 
that fair and firm political fabric which was to prove our surest support 
in the hour of need. 

The first and one of the most difficult tasks which lay before the 
Board was the pacification of the country. The greater portion, in- 
deed, of those gallant foes who had made us tremble for our empire 
at Ferozeshuhr and Chillianwallah had frankly recognised that our star 
was in the ascendant after the battle of Gujerat, and, on March 12, as 
I have already shown, had thrown down their swords in one vast pile, 
and had each, with two rupees in his pocket, returned to the plough 
whence he had originally come. It was now the turn of the few who 
had remained faithful to us during the struggle. Obedient to our 
summons, they mustered, together with the armed retinues of the old 
Sikh nobility, at Lahore. The old and invalided among them were 
pensioned off. The remainder obtained their long arrears of pay, 
and permission was given them, of which they were eventually to 
avail themselves largely, to re-enter our service. 

We had thus disbanded the Sikh army. It remained to disarm 
the population and so to deprive them of the temptation to violent 
crime and disorder which the possession of arms always gives. The 
wearing of arms, as the history of Eastern Europe still shows, is a 
privilege as dearly prized by a semi-civilised as by a barbarous people, 
and is often necessary for the safety of the wearer. But peace, pro- 
found peace, was henceforward, as we hoped, to reign in the Punjab. 


Accordingly, about six weeks after annexation, a proclamation order- 
ing a general disarmament was everywhere placarded, and, strange to 
say, was everywhere obeyed. One hundred and twenty thousand 
weapons of every size and species, some of them much more dangerous 
to the wearer than to his foe, and ranging from the cannon or the rifle 
of the nineteenth century a.d., down to the quoit or the bows and 
arrows of the time of Porus and Alexander in the fourth century B.C., 
were voluntarily surrendered. The mountaineers of Huzara and of 
the Trans-Indus frontier were the only exceptions to the rule. They 
were allowed, and were not only allowed but enjoined, to retain their 
arms ; for to have disarmed them, at this early period, would have 
been to lay them a defenceless prey at the feet of their neighbours 
across the border. 

The duty of protecting the country which had been thus deprived 
of the natural guardians— or disturbers — of its peace, fell, as a matter 
of course, on the conquerors. To guard the dangerous frontier line 
it was arranged that ten regiments — five of cavalry and five of infantry 
— should be raised from the country itself ; and people of various 
races — Hindustanis, Punjabis, and Mussulmans— responded cheer- 
fully to the call. The Sikhs, it had been feared, might flock in 
dangerously large numbers to our standards. But it was they alone who 
hung back ; and, for the moment, it seemed as though, contrary to all 
our principles, we should be obliged to hold the Punjab in check by 
a force from which the bravest of its inhabitants were practically ex- 
cluded. This danger soon passed by. The Sikhs threw off their 
scruples, and, since then, they have rendered us valiant service when- 
ever and wherever they have been called upon to do so. They have 
fought for us, with equal readiness, upon their own frontier, and in 
other parts of India, on the Irrawaddy, and on the Yang-tse-Kiang • 
they have borne their part in the victorious inarch on Magdala ; they 
have dropped down, like an apparition, on the newly annexed island 
of Cyprus ; and, more recently still, they have stood side by side with 
us before the ramparts of Tel-el-Kebir, and have joined us in the well- 
intentioned race for Cairo. 

Within a year of their being raised, several of the Punjab irregular 
regiments shed their blood in our service, and, henceforward, they 
were seldom to shed it in any other cause. The Afridis, the Swattis, 
and other turbulent tribes beyond the frontier, learned that their more 
peaceable neighbours within it had now a formidable power behind 
them which could not be provoked with impunity, and began to put 


some check on their predatory propensities. Three horse field- 
batteries, a camel corps stationed at Dera Ismael Khan, and the 
famous 'Guide Corps, 5 completed the moveable defences of the 

But the ' Guide Corps ' was so remarkable a body of men, and 
they will have to be so often mentioned hereafter, that it will be well 
to give at once some notion of their leading characteristics. The corps 
owed its origin to a suggestion thrown out by the fertile brain of 
Henry Lawrence, at the close of the first Sikh war. Originally it 
consisted of only two hundred and eighty men, horse and foot. But, 
in view of the increased duties which were now to be thrown upon 
it, its numbers were to be trebled. No more uncanny, and yet 
no more invaluable, body of men was ever got together. Like the 
Carthaginian army of old, which contained samples of every nation 
that the ubiquitous fleets of the great republic could reach, the Guide 
Corps contained, on a small scale, representatives of almost every race 
and every place, every language and every religion, which was to be 
found in the North and North-West of India. It contained men of 
every shade of moral character, and men of no character at all. The 
most cunning trackers, the most notorious cattle-lifters, the most 
daring freebooters, were enrolled in it, were subjected to a wholesome 
but not an over-strict discipline, were clothed in a brown uniform, so 
as to be indistinguishable, at a little distance, from the ground on 
which they moved, were privileged to receive a high rate of pay, and, 
within a very short space of time, were found to be ready ' to go any- 
where or do anything.' ' Ready, aye ready ! ' might well have been 
their motto. Endurance, courage, sagacity, local knowledge, presence 
of mind — these were the qualities which marked a man out for the 
Guide Corps. On whatever point of the five hundred miles of our west- 
ern frontier, with its score or more of savage tribes, operations had to be 
carried on, there were always to be found amongst the Guides men 
who could speak the language of the district in question, men who 
had threaded before, and, therefore, could now thread again, its most 
dangerous defiles, and could tell where the hostile encampment or the 
robber-haunted cavern lay. Thus the Guides, in a new but not an 
untrue sense of the word, formed the ' Intelligence Department ' of the 
Punjab. These were the men for a daring reconnaissance, for a forced 
march, for a forlorn hope. Raised first by Lieutenant Harry Lumsden, 
they had already done good service in border fighting and in the 
second Sikh war. They were soon to serve under Sir Colin Campbell 


against the Mohmunds, and their like, with unvarying success. Finally, 
they were to be the first of that splendid succession of reinforcements 
of which the Punjab was to denude itself in the day of peril and send 
with a God speed down to Delhi. 'I am making,' said Henry Daly, 
their commander, as he started with alacrity on his honourable mission, 
1 and I intend to make, the best march that has been heard of in India.' 
And he was as good as his word. In twenty-two days, at the very 
hottest season of the year, he made a forced march of five hundred 
and eighty miles from Peshawur to Delhi ; and his men came into 
camp, as they were described by an eye-witness, ' as firm and light of 
step as if they had marched only a mile.' What wonder that they 
were received with ringing cheers by the small besieging force, and 
were welcomed, not merely for what they were in themselves — a body 
which represented the loyalty and the energy of nearly every tribe of 
Upper India — but as an earnest of the reinforcements which the 
Punjab, with John Lawrence at the helm, and with such supporters 
as Montgomery, Nicholson, Edwardes, Chamberlain, and half a dozen 
other such at his side, was to pour forth, in quick succession, on the 
same hazardous errand ? 

The whole frontier force which I have described, was, after long 
-discussion, made directly subject to the Board, and was placed under 
the command of Brigadier Hodgson. One portion, and only one, of 
the frontier line was deemed by Lord Dalhousie to be of such para- 
mount importance for the protection of the Empire that it was reserved 
for the regular troops. This was the Peshawur Valley, which — with 
the Khyber, the direct passage to Afghanistan, and thence into Central 
Asia, in its front, and with the passage of the Indus directly in its 
rear — was to be guarded by a force of about 10,000 men, nearly 3,000 
of them Europeans. The Board had already shown by its measures 
that it was alive to the truth of the Greek saying that ' men, and not 
walls, make a city ; ' but the number of men at their disposal was too 
small, the hostile mountains were too near, sometimes not a couple 
of miles from our boundary, to allow of such a merely Spartan rampart 
as was possible in other parts of our Indian frontier. Accordingly, 
they arranged that the most dangerous portion, from Huzara to Dera 
Ismael Khan, should be defended by forts of considerable size, which 
were to be rendered capable of standing a siege ; that, below these, 
again, from the Tonk Valley down to Scinde, there should be a chain 
of smaller fortified posts at intervals of twelve miles apart ; and that 
the whole should be connected together by a good military road, with 


branches leading, on one side, towards the hostile mountains, and, on 
the other, towards the friendly river. 

So skilful and so complete were these defensive arrangements, and 
so admirable was the forbearance and the knowledge of the native 
character — the resolution, the promptitude, and the dash of the officers 
who were chosen to carry them out, that, from that time forward, the 
peace of the Punjab was never seriously threatened from without. The 
warlike preparations of the Board were thus all made, not with a view 
to war, but, as all warlike preparations ought to be made, with a view 
to peace ; not for aggression, but for defence ; not with a view to a 
1 forward ' or a ' backward ' policy, but with a determination to stand 
firmly placed where they were against all comers. And I have pur- 
posely described these frontier arrangements first, not because they 
are the most prominent feature of the Punjab administration, but 
because, owing to their complete success, they are the least so. They 
were the essential conditions of all the rest, and the less we hear of 
them after they had once been set going, the more sure we may 
feel that their object was attained. The ' Wardens of the Marches,' 
chosen by the Lawrences for these posts of danger and difficulty, 
George Lawrence and Reynell Taylor, Nicholson and Edwardes, Abbott 
and Becher, Keyes and Pollock, the Lumsdens and the Chamberlains,, 
were, all of them, picked men and pre-eminently fitted for their work, 
a work as modest as it was heroic. They only want their historian. 
In any C2se, so well was their work done — the work of defence not 
defiance, of civilisation not conquest — during the period most identified 
with the name and fame of John Lawrence, that his biographer, forget- 
ting the triumphs of war in the more grateful and enduring triumphs 
of peace, can afford, after he has indicated the general character of the 
frontier they had to guard, and the general principles on which they did 
so, to let them almost pass out of sight, recurring to them only at those 
rare intervals when exceptional dangers brought them into exceptional 
prominence, and showed that they were able to cope with the need. 

The country having been disarmed, and the frontier rendered 
secure, the next object of the Board was to provide for the detection 
and prevention of crime. To meet these ends, they raised two large 
bodies of police, the one preventive, with a military organisation, the 
other detective. The preventive police were 8,000 in number, horse 
and foot, many among whom had done good service to the late Durbar, 
and had remained faithful to us in the Sikh war. Their duty was to 
furnish guards for treasuries, jails, and outposts, to patrol the roads — 


as much as there should be any roads to patrol — and to follow up 
gangs of marauders, should any such appear or reappear in the nearly 
pacified province. The other body, numbering 7,000 men, and 
divided amongst some 230 police districts (thannahs), was to be em- 
ployed in the detection of crime, in the guarding of ferries, and in 
the collecting of supplies for troops or of boats for the passage of the 

With a wise trustfulness in its instruments, the Board left to the 
native revenue collectors, called tahsildars, large powers in the way of 
organising and controlling these police, thus utilising the local know- 
ledge which they, and they alone, possessed. The native village 
watchmen, who formed an integral part of the old village system and 
were paid by the villagers themselves, were also carefully maintained 
by officers who had learned the priceless value of the village commu- 
nities in the North- West. 

Special precautions were required in those districts which were 
most infested by criminals. The Peshawur valley, for instance, was 
a nest of assassins, in which crimes of violence had always been the 
order of the day. Any hollow of the ground, any gully, above all any 
tomb of a Mussulman saint, might, not improbably, harbour some 
desperate cutthroat. The centres of the Doabs, again, which were 
covered with jungle, or brushwood, or tracts of long grass, had been, as 
I have already mentioned, from time immemorial, a very sanctuary 
of cattle-lifters and their spoil. In these natural fastnesses whole 
herds of oxen which had been driven off from the richer lands near 
the river might graze and wander at pleasure, and yet lie impenetrably 
concealed from their former owners. Foolish, indeed, would any 
villager be who dared to penetrate such a Cyclops' den in order to 
recover what its wild inhabitants deemed to be theirs by a right at 
least as sacred as his ! The chance of finding his cattle would be 
small, and his chance of his escaping with them or with his life would 
be smaller still. It was not the nature of the Punjabi to throw away 
good money after bad, and so the great central Doabs were peopled, 
like the Aventine of old, by hundreds of Cacuses who had never, till 
the time of the British occupation, found any reason to fear a Hercules. 

How did the Board deal with these districts ? Round the city of 
Peshawur they drew cordon behind cordon of police posts. They 
filled in the ravines and hollows and spread a network of roads over 
the adjoining district. In the Doabs, which had never yet been 
crossed by anything but a camel track, roads were cut in various 

vol. 1. s 


directions, mounted patrols of police sent along them, and, more im- 
portant than all, professional trackers were employed— men of whose 
amazing skill John Lawrence had again and again availed himself in 
the pursuit of criminals at Delhi, at Paniput, and at Gurgaon ; men 
whose senses had been sharpened by natural or artificial selection to 
a preternatural degree of acuteness ; who could discern a footprint, 
invisible to the ordinary eye, in the hardest clay ; who could follow 
a track of harried cattle through the wildest jungle and the roughest 
grass for, perhaps, some fifty miles, naming beforehand the number 
of the men and of the animals in the party, till, at last, they carried 
the trail, triumphantly, to some remote encampment, where their un- 
canny skill was proved to ocular demonstration. 

But cattle-stealing was by no means the worst crime with 
which the Board had to deal. Dacoity, or robbery in gangs, had 
been bound up with the whole course of Punjab history. The Sikhs 
had been cradled in it ; it had grown with their growth ; and, 
as in many analogous periods of European history, it was the most 
successful gang robber who, after winning by his trusty sword large 
quantities of money or of cattle, usually ended by carving out for 
himself, in much the same manner, broad estates or powerful princi- 
palities. The leader of a band of free-lances had thus little reason to 
be ashamed of his occupation. The bluest blood to be found in the 
Punjab often flowed in his veins, and his profession did as much 
honour to him as he to his profession. Kept within bounds by the 
strong hand of Runjeet Sing, or rather given ample occupation by 
his foreign conquests, Dacoity had taken a new lease of life in the 
anarchy which followed his death ; and when his army was finally 
broken up by us, it was only natural that the bolder spirits who could 
not, or would not, enter our service, should betake themselves to so 
time-honoured a practice. The districts of Lahore and Umritsur 
began to swarm with them. But strong precautions and wholesome 
severity soon checked the evil. During the first year, thirty-seven 
Dacoits were condemned to death in Umritsur alone ; in the second 
year, the number fell to seven ; and, in a few years more, the crime 
ceased to exist throughout the Punjab. 

But there was a more insidious crime, the existence of which 
seems, at first, to have been quite unsuspected in the Punjab. 
The prevalence of Thuggee in other parts of India had only been 
discovered a few years previously. But the weird practices connected 
with it, the religious initiation, the patient plotting, the cool cruelty, 
the consummate skill, and the professional enthusiasm of the actors, 


had already given to it a world-wide celebrity. Colonel Sleeman 
had tracked its mysteries through all their windings, and Colonel 
Meadows Taylor has, since then, laid them bare to the world in a 
well-known story, which does not overstate the facts of the case. 

The discovery of corpses by the side of wells or in the jungles, 
after the Dacoits had pretty well been exterminated, first aroused a 
suspicion that other confraternities of death might be found within 
our limits. Dead men tell no tales, and the Thugs of Hindustan had 
been much too skilful ever to leave their work half-done. No half- 
throttled traveller had ever escaped from their hands to tell the tale 
of the fellow-travellers who had joined him on his road, had wormed 
themselves into his confidence, had questioned him of his welfare, 
and then, as he sat at food with them by the wayside, had with one 
twist of the fatal handkerchief, attempted to give him a short shrift. 
But the Punjab Thug was a mere bungler in his business. The fine 
art had only recently been imported into his country from Hindustan, 
and its first professor had been discovered and straightway hung up 
by Runjeet Sing. His successors often made up for their want of 
skill in the use of the handkerchief, by hacking their victim to 
pieces with their swords, and then, instead of pitching his body, still 
warm, into the grave which they had opened while he was talking to 
them, they would carelessly leave it to rot by the wayside. At last 
a Brahmin, who had been two-thirds strangled and left for dead, 
recovered and told his tale. The clue was followed up. Rewards 
were offered for the detection of Thugs, a free pardon was promised 
to those who might turn Queen's evidence, and a special officer was 
appointed for the investigation. A list of recent victims, two hundred 
and sixty-four in number, was soon given in by approvers. A second 
list of professional Thugs, given in by the same authorities, was pub- 
lished and posted everywhere. Many of these were apprehended, 
and their confessions taken. Others disappeared altogether. The 
approver would often conduct the British officer for miles through 
the jungle without any apparent clue which could guide him in his 
search or refresh his memory. ' Dig here,' ' Dig there,' he would say, 
as he came to a sudden stop in his tortuous course \ and the turning 
up of a few spadefuls of soil revealed the corpse or the skeleton of 
one of his victims. Along one bit of by-path fifty-three graves were 
thus opened and were all found to be tenanted. One Thug was 
questioned as to the number of his victims. His professional pride 
was touched, and with true enthusiasm he replied, ' How can I tell ? 

260 LIFE OF LORD LA WHENCE. 1849-52 

Do you remember, Sahib, every animal you have killed in the chase I* 
Thuggee is our sport, our shikar ! ' l 

The Thugs of the Punjab were found to belong chiefly to the 
Muzbi or sweeper caste. They were as superstitious as they were 
bungling and cruel. A cry of a bird or beast of ill-omen could turn 
from its purpose a heart which no pang of pity or of remorse could 
ever reach. A thousand of these Muzbis paid, within a few years, the 
penalty of their misdeeds. They had been treated by the Sikhs as 
outcasts, and it is little wonder if they soon became so. It was the 
object of the Punjab Board, if they could not overcome the sentiment 
which lay at the bottom of the caste feeling, at least to make the 
existence of those miserable creatures more tolerable, and, by a 
strict system of supervision and of employment, to turn them into 
decent members of society. They were employed for several years 
to come on those two great material triumphs of the Punjab Admin- 
istration, to be described hereafter — the Bari Doab Canal and the 
Grand Trunk Road. And, in the Mutiny, when a cry was raised at 
Delhi for sappers and miners, it was these selfsame outcasts who were 
selected by John Lawrence for the purpose, and who did admirable 
service to our cause both at Delhi and at Lucknow. To have re- 
claimed these men, and to have put down for ever, in a marvellously 
short space of time, two such evils as Dacoity and Thuggee, is no 
slight credit to the Punjab Board, and no slight gain to the cause of 

A cognate subject, and one which would naturally come next to 
the suppression of Dacoity and Thuggee, is that of female infanticide. 
But of this I have already said something, and its suppression in the 
four Doabs belongs rather to the Chief-Commissionership of John 
Lawrence, who had been the first to strike a blow at it in the 
Jullundur Doab, than to the period of the Board. 

In dealing with the subject of crime, the Lawrence brothers did 
not lose sight of the secondary object of punishment — the reforma- 
tion of the criminal. Runjeet's simple alternative of fine or mutila- 
tion had, certainly, never been open to the charge of overstocking his 
prisons. His system had placed not more than two hundred criminals 
in durance. Ours was to place ten thousand. But these, instead of 
being mutilated, or chained to a post in the streets, or placed at the 
bottom of a dry well, were subjected to a system of strict discipline 

1 Arnold's DaUwusie, vol. i. p. 259. 


indeed, and hard work, but were decently clothed, fed, and housed, 
and were taught the rudiments of education, and of a trade. New 
jails, twenty-five in number, of different sizes and models, were 
erected in the different Districts subject to the Punjab Board. The 
great central jail at Lahore was built on the newest model, with a view 
to economy and health, as well as the supervision, the classification, 
and the moral improvement of the prisoners. Thus John Lawrence 
was able, with the energetic help of Dr. Charles Hathaway, who was 
now appointed Inspector of Prisons, to carry out the improvements 
in the system which he had long since indicated as desirable. 

As regards legislation, the customs of the natives were, as far as 
possible, taken as the basis of the law. The Board knew well, as one 
of the sages of antiquity has remarked, that ' good customs are of even 
greater importance than good laws,' in fact, that the one are only 
efficacious in so far as they are the outcome and the representative 
of the other. Accordingly, a code of native customs was drawn up. 
Those which were absolutely bad and seemed to be incapable of im- 
provement were forbidden. Those which related to marriage and 
divorce, and tended, as they do in most Eastern countries, to the 
degradation of the female sex, were, first, modified and then ac- 
cepted. Those which related to such subjects as inheritance and 
adoption were incorporated at once. The Tahsildars, whose local 
knowledge marked them out as the best judges of local matters of 
small importance, were confirmed in their judicial, as they had 
already been in their police authority. Each village, or group of 
adjoining villages, thus retained a court of its own sanctioned by im- 
memorial custom, and though the right of appeal to the Deputy- 
Commissioner was reserved, yet a large portion of all matters in 
dispute could always be settled within its precincts. It should be 
added, that the English officers of all grades were bound by the spirit 
rather than by the letter of the regulations, and all acted on the prin- 
ciple so dearly cherished in the East, that, if it is not possible to 
eliminate all mistakes in the administration of justice, it is at least 
possible to avoid undue delays. 

But none of these reforms could be accomplished without a 
proper settlement of the revenue, and in particular of that item on 
which it mainly depends — the land-tax. The land-tax is that varying 
share of the produce of the soil which is claimed by Government as 
its own. Under native governments it is generally paid in kind, and 
is levied, harvest by harvest, by ill-paid officials, who are apt to take 

262 LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. 1849-52- 

too little from the cultivator if he bribes them sufficiently, too much 
if he does not. And, in either case, a large part of the amount, instead 
of finding its way into the coffers of the State, stops short in the pocket 
of the tax-gatherers. Under the system introduced by the English, 
a low average of the produce of a district was taken on the returns 
of several years together, and then, the money value of the Govern- 
ment share was taken at another low average of current prices. All 
parties gained by this arrangement, but, most of all, the cultivator 
himself. The saving was great in every way ; for the estimate was 
taken once in ten, twenty, or thirty years, instead of twice or three 
times in one year, while extortion and other abuses were rendered 
almost impossible. If the English Government had conferred no 
other benefit on India than this, it would have done much to justify 
its existence. 

The varieties of land tenure were numerous and complicated, 
but they were time-honoured ; and it was the honourable mission 
of the Board, in no case, to destroy, but only to revivify and to pre- 
serve. The land-tax had, in Runjeet's time, amounted to half the 
gross produce, and had generally, been paid in kind. This payment 
in kind - not without strong protests on the part of the tax-payers — 
was abolished by us, and its amount reduced to a half or to a quarter 
of what it had been before. Nor did the State suffer much by the 
remission, for the revenues of Mooltan, which had become an integral 
part of the Punjab, and of other outlying parts, were flowing freely 
into our Treasury, and our receipts were further swollen by the 
abolition of the illicit profits of the tax-collectors, and by the con- 
fiscation of the property of rebellious jagheerdars. 

The financial policy of the Board was liberal throughout. The 
forty-seven articles taxed by the lynx-eyed Runjeet had already been 
cut down to twenty by Henry Lawrence ; but to secure the payment 
even of this diminished number of duties, it had been found necessary 
to retain Runjeet's cordon of preventive lines all round the frontier. 
Transit duties and tolls had been levied by Runjeet at every possible 
point within the Punjab. A piece of merchandise crossing the 
country had to pay duty some twelve times over ! On January 1, 
1850— only ten months, that is, after annexation— all town and transit 
dues, all export and import duties, were swept away. The preven- 
tive frontier line was abolished, and trade was left free to flow in its 
natural channels. To balance these reductions, an excise, desirable 
in every point of view, was levied on spirits ; stamp duties were intro- 


duced ; tolls at the chief ferries over the large rivers were authorised j 
and a tax — necessary under the circumstances, but not theoretically 
free from objection, since it was laid on a necessity of life — was 
imposed on salt. The vast stores of this mineral to be found in the 
Salt range were, henceforward, to be managed by Government itself ; 
and, to render the revenue accruing from it secure, the importation of 
salt from all neighbouring districts was prohibited. It was the one 
blot on an otherwise excellent fiscal system. But the natives did 
not object to it, and found it no burden. 

If the prosperity of the country did not seem to increase with a 
bound, as the result of all these arrangements, it was not the fault 
of the Government but of circumstances which were beyond its con- 
trol. There were three rich harvests after annexation. The soldiers 
of the Khalsa betook themselves to the plough or to the spade ; and 
agriculture, encouraged by the lowered land-tax, and by the peace 
and security of the country, spread over tracts which had never before 
been broken up. There was thus a glut of agricultural produce in 
the markets, while there was, as yet, no ready means of disposing of it. 
The cultivators found difficulty in paying even the reduced land-tax. 
A cry arose for further remissions, and under a Government which 
was generous, but not lavish, it was a cry that was not raised in vain. 
Thus, the discontent which was the accidental result of the improved 
condition of the country tended to make the inhabitants more 
prosperous still. Happy the country and happy the people that were 
in such a case ! 

I have spoken of the jails erected by the Board throughout the 
Punjab, and of the line of forts along its western frontier ; but 
there were other public buildings and other public works, which, if 
they were less urgently required at the outset of our rule, were not 
less essential for its permanence and its success. What we vaguely 
call ' the development of the resources of the country ' — a country, in 
some parts, so blessed by nature and so neglected by man — required 
a department, or at least a ruling spirit, to itself ; and Lord Dalhousie, 
who had promised Henry Lawrence to give him ' the best men in the 
country,' was true to his word, in this, as in other particulars. For 
he gave him as ' Civil Engineer ' the best man who could have been 
found at that time, perhaps the best who could have been found at 
any time, in India, for the purpose. Colonel Robert Napier had acted 
as Consulting Engineer to Henry Lawrence during the Residency ; he 
had traversed the country for himself from end to end, and he was 


well acquainted with its capabilities and its wants. More than this, 
he was a man of vast ideas. He had something in him of the ' great- 
souled ' man of Aristotle — the beau ideal, as the whole of his subse- 
quent career has proved him to be, of chivalry and generosity. If 
a thing was to be done well, and without a too close calculation of 
the cost, Napier was the man to do it. His ideas found expression 
in those splendid public works which are the pride of the Punjab, 
and are still a model for the rest of India. 

An efficient staff was placed at Napier's disposal ; first and fore- 
most, Lieutenant Alexander Taylor, whose name will come before us 
in more than one striking scene hereafter, and who was able to secure 
the warm affection of men so widely different from each other as Napier 
and Nicholson, as Henry and John Lawrence. Funds fairly adequate 
to the occasion were placed at the Chief Engineer's disposal, and 
special grants were to be made for works of imperial magnitude, such 
as the Grand Trunk Road and the great canals. But roads and 
canals are not made in a day, and, in such matters, the work of the 
Board was, necessarily, one of preparation rather than of completion, 
of struggles under difficulties rather than of victory over them. Yet, 
even in this early period, roads were not only projected and surveyed, 
but were actually constructed. In the map prepared in Napier's office 
and appended to the first Punjab report, a perfect network of roads — 
military roads, roads for external and internal commerce, cross and 
branch roads in every direction — some of them, merely proposed or 
surveyed, others traced or completed, may be seen spreading over the 
country, like the veins and arteries over the human body. 

A single sentence of this same Punjab report thus sums up what 
had been done in the way of road-making, during the first three years 
of our possession : ' 1,349 miles of road,' it says, 'have been cleared 
and constructed ; 853 miles are under construction, 2,487 miles have 
been traced, and 5,272 miles surveyed, all exclusive of minor cross and 
branch roads.' The Romans were the great road-makers of antiquity, 
and it is one of their crowning glories that they were so. But the 
Grand Trunk Road from Calcutta to Peshawur may, in the difficulties 
which it overcame, in the way it overcame them, and in the benefits 
it has conferred, challenge comparison with the greatest triumphs of 
Roman engineering skill, with the Appian Way, which united Rome 
with Brundusium, and the Flaminian, which united it with Ariminum. 
Nor need the character and career of Robert Napier shrink from com- 
parison with all that is best either in that of the great censor Appius, 


or of the Consul Flaminius, the generous foe of aristocratic privilege 
and chicanery, and the constructor of the splendid Circus and the 
Road which immortalise his name. 

More had been done by previous Governments for the develop- 
ment of the Punjab in the way of canals than in that of roads. The 
Moguls, who were magnificent in all they undertook, had especially 
distinguished themselves in this particular. The Mooltan district had 
been intersected with canals, and the native system, which compelled 
each village to pay its share of labour, or of money, towards keeping 
them in repair was found by Napier to be so fair and efficacious that 
he was content to 'leave well alone.' In the north of the Ban 
Doab, again, a canal known as the Husli or Shah-i-nahr, ' the royal 
canal,' had been carried from the point where the Ravi leaves the 
mountains — a distance of no miles— to Lahore. It was a grand 
work. But it fertilised no wastes and called into existence no villages. 
It simply supplied the royal waterworks, conservatories, and fountains 
at the palace of Lahore. Accordingly, another great work was pro- 
posed by the Board, which is as characteristic of the aims of the 
English Government in India, as the Husli Canal had been of the 
Native. Starting from precisely the same point in the Ravi — as though 
to emphasise the contrast — a canal was projected, which, passing near 
the towns of Denanuggur, Batala, and Umritsur, should traverse the 
whole length of the Bari Doab, should send forth from the upper part 
of its course, into districts which specially needed it, three branches, 
each of them from sixty to eighty miles long ; should refill the empty 
reservoirs and disused watercourses of the great southern waste, calling 
into existence everywhere new villages, and resuscitating those which had 
fallen into decay, till, after a course of 247 miles, it rejoined the Ravi 
above Mooltan. The new canal would, necessarily, be the work of 
many years, but it was begun in faith, and was all but accomplished 
in the Chief Commissionership of John Lawrence. The ' father of 
history,' in his ever fresh and vivid account of Egypt, struck by the 
wonder-working power of its life-giving river, invests it with personality 
throughout. The whole land of Egypt is, he says, ' the gift of the 
river ' \ the river is 'industrious,' 'benevolent,' ' takes this or that into 
its head,' 'wills this or does not will' that. But the terms in which 
Herodotus speaks of the river Nile and of the indwelling river-god he 
might have applied now, with a hardly greater infusion of metaphor, 
to the rivers of the Punjab and to the philanthropic statesmen who, by 
means of scores of canals and hundreds of watercuts and watercourses 


have so twisted and turned them as to revivify deserts and to scatter 
plenty over a, comparatively, smiling land. 

I have now glanced at the most important subjects which called 
for the immediate attention of the Board. But there were others of 
which less energetic rulers would have postponed all consideration 
till the pressure upon them was less intense. The diversity of the 
coinages of the country was one difficulty which presented itself ; the 
diversity of languages, a second ; the diversity of weights and 
measures, a third. The want of a system of education and of a 
system of agriculture ; the want of forest trees, of sanitary measures, 
and of sanataria, — all these subjects demanded and received their 
due share of attention. A few lines on each of them must suffice, in 
order to complete the outline of the Lawrence brothers' adminis- 

In the strange intermixture of coinages and languages to be 
found in the Punjab, it would be possible to trace the successive 
w r aves of foreign conquest and the internal convulsions which have 
passed over the country. To coin money is the attribute of kingly 
power everywhere, but nowhere so exclusively so as in the East. 
Accordingly, the first thing which any conqueror or upstart provisional 
governor does, is to strike off a coinage of his own. Thus it came 
about that, in the Leia Division alone, twenty-eight different coins 
were found to be in circulation, and that the rupee of Kashmere was 
worth barely two-thirds of that of the Company, whilst this last, 
again, was inferior in purity and value to the old Nanuk Shahi rupee, 
the symbol of the Sikh religion and power, which was coined at 
Umritsur and Lahore. Nor was this the worst ; for of the Nanuk 
Shahi rupee itself there were not less than thirty varieties in circula- 
tion ! The commercial confusion, the illicit gains, the losses on 
exchange resulting from such a state of things can be imagined. All 
the illiterate classes must have suffered, and only the coiners, the 
money-changers, and, possibly, the Sirdars, have thriven. Here was 
a case for prompt interference on our part The dead coinages were 
called in. They were sent to Bombay and Calcutta to be melted 
down, and their equivalent was remitted to the Punjab, stamped with 
the mark, not of the Great Guru, or the Great Mogul, but of the 
English Queen. The coinage of the country was thus made to 
harmonise with accomplished facts, and, within three years, three- 
fourths of the whole revenue paid into the British treasury was found 
to be in British coin. 


The languages of the Punjab were equally confusing. The 
Gourmooki, or sacred language of the Grunth, or Sikh scriptures, 
was, like Sanskrit, written rather than spoken. But there was a 
sufficient variety of spoken languages. In the two westernmost 
Doabs, Persian, or dialects derived from it, were current ; in the 
easternmost, Punjabi, a corrupt form of Urdu. In one of the Indus 
districts, Pushtu was spoken ; in another Beluchi. The difficulty of 
establishing a settled government and administering justice amidst 
this Babel of languages was great. But it would hardly have been 
lessened by any arbitrary attempt — letting alone the question of its 
justice — to force, as the Russians have done in Poland, any one 
official language upon the whole. An arrangement was ultimately 
come to that Urdu should be the official language of the eastern 
and Persian of the western half of the Punjab, and this compromise 
has been found to work well. 

As regards education, the work of the first three years was chiefly 
preparatory. The first thing to be done was to ascertain what steps 
had been taken by natives in that direction ; and Robert Montgomery 
— a name mentioned here for the first time in connection with the 
Punjab, but henceforward almost as closely bound up with it as that 
of the Lawrences themselves — threw himself into the work with 
alacrity. To his surprise and pleasure, it was discovered that, through- 
out the Punjab, there were elementary schools for all classes, Sikh, 
Mussulman, and Hindu ; that the agricultural classes, unlike those 
of other parts of India, resorted to them in at least as large numbers 
as the higher castes, Rajpoots, Brahmins, or Khuttries ; and, more 
remarkable still, that even female education, which is quite unknown 
in other parts of the peninsula, was not altogether neglected. In 
Lahore, for instance, there were sixteen schools for girls, with an 
average of six scholars in each, and, what is still more noteworthy, 
all of them were Muslims. In fact, there was a general desire for 
education. The standard aimed at in these native schools was, of 
course, not high. The staple of the education was the reading and 
recitation of the sacred volume accepted by each creed, supplemented 
by a little writing and arithmetic — enough, at all events, to enable 
the Sikh to calculate his compound interest with accuracy, and to 
make him a good village accountant. The buildings were of the 
most primitive kind. A temporary shed or tent, or the enclosure of 
some mosque or temple, sufficed for the purpose. Sometimes there 
was nothing but the shade of a spreading tree. The stipend of the 


teacher was precarious enough, and was eked out by presents of 
grain or sweetmeats from the pupils or their parents. The members 
of the Board were unable, at this early date, to elaborate any ex- 
tensive educational schemes, but they scrupulously respected all 
existing educational endowments, and they proposed to found a 
central school in each city of the Punjab. That at Umritsur was of 
a more ambitious character. It was to be divided into as many 
departments as there were religions or languages in the country. By 
the end of the second year after annexation, it contained 153, and 
at the end of the fourth year 308, scholars. A race of young 
Punjabis, it was hoped, were thus being trained up who might be 
trusted with the more or less important posts under Government 
which were then in the hands of Hindustanis. 

The want of forest trees was met, so far as it could be so, by 
orders that all existing forests should be carefully preserved, that 
groves should be planted round public buildings, at intervals along 
the main lines of road, and in continuous lines throughout the course 
of the great canals. Thus some shade and timber were secured for 
coming generations, while, with a view to firewood, which is all-im- 
portant in a country destitute of coal, the vast jungles, whence the 
woodcutters used, with reckless improvidence, to tear up whole bushes, 
were to be replanted and carefully tended. The famous grass pre- 
serves, the best of whose produce had been appropriated by the very 
Sirdars who were paid to look after them, while Runjeet's cavalry, for 
which they were intended, got only the refuse, were committed to the 
care of a special English officer, Edward Prinsep, who took measures 
that the State should, henceforward, get its own. 

The proper rotation of crops was a subject little understood, and 
less practised, by a people who, careless of the future, are content if 
they can live from hand to mouth and, when they can no longer do 
that, are only too content to die. It was observed that one of the 
first results of the remission of taxation was that cereals were planted 
everywhere by the short-sighted cultivators of the ground. There 
was, consequently, a glut in the market of this kind of produce, while 
the land itself suffered proportionately. To meet this evil, cotton, 
tobacco, flax, sugar-cane, and root crops were introduced, on an 
extensive scale, into the Punjab, by the direct intervention of the 
Board, and with great success. The country was already well stocked 
with mulberry-trees, and the cultivation of the silkworm, which was 
encouraged by the Board, soon gave it a trade of its own. Fifty new 


species of forest trees were planted in the tracts set apart for wood- 
lands, and the tea-plant, which had been introduced by Thomason 
and his assistants into the North-Western Provinces, was now in- 
troduced into the Murri hills and the slopes of the far-famed Kangra 
valley. A new region was thus thrown open to a new commerce, and 
to a commerce which, unlike that of opium, is of a wholly unobjec- 
tionable kind. 

In the unadulterated East, sanitary precautions are entirely neg- 
lected. The streets of even splendid cities are unpaved, undrained, 
and uncleansed. The carcasses of animals are left to rot where 
they die, and the suburbs are worse even than the cities. They are 
veritable Gehennas, the * heaps ' or ' mounds ' of the Bible, and form 
the invariable surroundings of an Eastern town. Hence the foul air, 
the polluted water, the frequent pestilences, and, when once the 
European has introduced the appalling idea of statistics to the 
Eastern mind, what are, at length, discovered to be the still more 
appalling death-rates of Eastern cities. Lahore, which was deemed 
worthy by Milton of a place in the world-wide panorama displayed 
to our great parent by the angel, enjoyed a bad pre-eminence in these 
respects. The English troops, encamped in one of its suburbs, 
amidst the dilapidated houses and the pestilential deposits of suc- 
cessive generations, were the first to feel the Nemesis of offended 
nature. And the first steps towards sanitary improvement only made 
the evil worse. Science can hardly get rid of the germs of disease 
from such a hotbed without first stirring them into unwonted activity. 
But the exertions of a few years procured a clean bill of health even 
in so fever-haunted a region. Lahore was metamorphosed, in a 
sanitary point of view, by the exertions of George Macgregor, and 
Umritsur by those of C. B. Saunders, its magistrate. And if, as was 
inevitable, they both lost, in the process, something of the charm and 
picturesqueness of an Eastern city, the health and happiness and 
well-being of their inhabitants were vastly increased. 

Nor was the Board content to be, in these matters, simply a 
paternal government. It has often been said that the best possible 
government for Orientals is a benevolent despotism — a government, 
that is, in which everything is done for the people, and nothing by 
them. But such was not the ideal set before themselves by the 
Lawrences. The English magistrate was naturally the moving spirit 
in each city, but associated with him there was to be a Town Council, 
elected by the natives from their own body, and when once the first 

i-jo LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. 1849-52 

impulse had been given they worked with a will in the right direc- 
tion. The first germs of municipal government were thus planted in 
a not altogether uncongenial soil. 

The establishment of sanatoria in the hills proceeded pari passu 
with the sanitary measures taken in the plains. A sanatarium for the 
troops quartered at the great stations of Peshawur, Rawul Pindi, and 
Jhelum was established in 1851 on the beautiful hills of Murri. It 
is a place which will be often mentioned in this biography, for it was 
amidst its cool breezes, during the next eight years, that overburdened 
Punjab officials snatched the hard-earned period of comparative 
repose which might fit them for still harder work to come. A second 
sanatarium, intended for the Punjab Irregular Force, was built on the 
Budawodeen Mount across the Indus ; and a third, intended for the 
cantonments of Lahore and Sealkote, was sought and found amidst 
the Chumba hills. This last, on the proposal of the Lawrences, took, 
as it well might, the name of the Governor-General under whose 
master spirit they were content to think and work. At the same 
time, dispensaries were established at all the leading stations in the 
country. The superintendence of these institutions was to be con- 
fided to natives who had received a European education. Eastern 
patients generally have more belief in amulets and incantations than 
in drugs and prescriptions, and when we remember the absolute 
ignorance of Eastern practitioners, we may think it fortunate that it 
is so. But the Punjabi was willing to take from a native doctor drugs 
which he would have refused at the hand of a European ; and it was 
hoped that, when he had once convinced himself of the good to be 
got from European medicines, it would not be long before he was 
able to trust the Europeans also who prepared them. 

Of the smaller benefits conferred on the Punjab, such as a postal 
system, the protection given to natives against unfair impressment of 
their draught cattle or their carts, the improved working of the salt 
mines, the care taken to keep in repair the historical monuments of 
the country, it is unnecessary here to speak. Enough has been said 
to show that the Lawrences thought nothing to be above, nothing 
beneath, their notice ; that their object was to find out everything 
which could be done, never to find excuses for leaving anything un- 
done. And, if any of the details to which I have referred in this 
general sketch of the Punjab administration seem to any one to be 
of small importance, I answer that it has been well said that perfection 
is made up of trifles, but that perfection itself is no trifle. 


It only remains to be added that the Punjab ' paid : ' an all-im- 
portant consideration this, when we bear in mind the poverty of the 
inhabitants of India. It is, of course, true that the balance-sheet of 
a great empire is not always to be scrutinised as though it were the 
balance-sheet of a commercial firm, and that a heroic disregard of 
finance may occasionally prove, in the end, to be not only the truest 
wisdom but the best economy. But, owing to the exertions of the 
Board, and in an especial degree, it must be added, to the financial 
genius of John Lawrence, the administration of the Punjab — even 
when the task before it was nothing less than the reconstruction of 
the whole country, and when that reconstruction was proceeding at a 
railroad pace — could stand the strictest of commercial tests. Not to 
speak of the balance-sheets of the first three years, which showed a 
surplus of fifty-two, sixty-four, and seventy lacs of rupees respectively 
— for this surplus was, in part, the result of the confiscation of jagheers, 
and of the sale of State property — in the fourth year, when these 
exceptional receipts had almost disappeared and the colossal expense 
of the Grand Trunk Road and the Great Canal had begun to make 
itself felt, there was still a surplus of fifty-three lacs. The Board did 
not disguise from themselves or from their superiors that, in the spirit 
of a munificent and far-seeing landlord, they contemplated an ever- 
increasing expenditure during the next ten years on these public 
works. But, with just confidence, they held that such an expenditure 
would be reproductive, and that, even during the ten years of lean- 
ness which must precede many decades of plenty, there would still 
be a surplus of twelve lacs per annum. These anticipations, however 
sanguine they might seem, were justified by the result. Constant 
reductions were made in the land settlement, and yet the revenue 
went on increasing. The 134 lacs of revenue of the year of annex- 
ation (1849) had risen, by the year of the mutiny (1857), to 205 lacs. 
In that year of agony, the Chief Commissioner not only raised this 
large sum, by methods which are usually practicable only in the time 
of peace, but was actually able from the surplus to send off twenty 
lacs in hard cash to Delhi ! 

It was to little purpose that the critics of the Punjab administra- 
tion pointed to the large army of 50,000 men stationed within the 
limits of the province, and insisted that the whole expense attending 
it should be charged to the Punjab account ; for Lord Dalhousie 
triumphantly retorted that the military force which would have been 
required if our frontier had still been the Sutlej, would not have been 


appreciably less than that which was required to defend the line of 
the Suliman mountains. It was only the excess— an excess consist- 
ing, as he pointed out, of not more than two European regiments — ■ 
which could fairly be charged to the Punjab accounts. 

But even if the Punjab had not 'paid,' it would still, looking at 
the results achieved, have been an extraordinary success. In this 
very imperfect world, it is not always, nor indeed often, that the cost 
of a war is proportioned to its justice or injustice. But it is not un- 
satisfactory to observe that the two Sikh wars which were forced upon 
us, and were essentially defensive, over and above the enormous 
moral benefits which they have conferred upon the conquered people, 
have proved, financially also, a success ; while the two Afghan wars, 
which were essentially aggressive, and which history has already 
branded with the stamp of egregious folly as well as of injustice, have 
proved as disastrous financially as they deserved to be. The finances 
of India, as a whole, have hardly yet recovered from the blunders 
and the crimes of the first Afghan war. When will they recover 
from the second ? 

I can hardly conclude this account of the administration of the 
Punjab Board better than by making three quotations — one from the 
last paragraph of the first Punjab report, to which it owes so much ; 
the second from Lord Dalhousie's comments upon it ; and the third 
from the reply of the Directors at home. 

In a spirit of just self-appreciation, equally removed from false 
modesty and from pride, the Board thus sum up their labours for the 
past and their hopes for the future : — 

The Board have endeavoured to set forth the administration of the 
Punjab since annexation, in all its branches, with as much succinctness 
as might be compatible with precision and perspicuity. It has been ex- 
plained how internal peace has been preserved, and the frontier guarded ; 
how the various establishments of the State have been organised ; how 
violent crime has been repressed, the penal law executed, and prison 
discipline enforced ; how civil justice has been administered ; how the 
taxation has been fixed, and the revenue collected ; how commerce has 
been set free, agriculture fostered, and the national resources developed ; 
how plans for future improvement have been projected ; and, lastly, how 
the finances have been managed. The Most Noble the Governor- 
General, who has seen the country and personally inspected the execu- 
tive system, will judge whether this administration has fulfilled the 
wishes of the Government ; whether the country is richer ; whether the 
people are happier and better. A great revolution cannot happen with- 


out injuring some classes. When a State falls, its nobility and its 
supporters must, to some extent, suffer with it ; a dominant sect and 
party, ever moved by political ambition and religious enthusiasm, cannot 
return to the ordinary level of society and the common occupations of 
life, without feeling some discontent and some enmity against their 
powerful but humane conquerors. But it is probable that the mass of 
the people will advance in material prosperity and moral elevation under 
the influence of British rule. The Board are not unmindful that in con- 
ducting the administration they had before them the Indian experience 
of many successive Governments, and especially the excellent example 
displayed in the North-Western Provinces. They are not insensible of 
shortcomings, but they will yet venture to say that this retrospect of the 
past does inspire them with a hope for the future. 

(Signed) Henry M. Lawrence, President. 

John Lawrence, Senior Member. 

Robert Montgomery, Junior Member. 

Lahore : August 19, 1852. 

Lord Dalhousie, after a lengthened comment on the report, writes 
as follows, and there will be few who will not endorse his deliberate 
judgment : — 

For this prosperous and happy result, the Honourable Company is 
mainly indebted to the members of the Board of Administration— Sir 
Henry Lawrence, Mr. John Lawrence, Mr. Mansel, and his successor, 
Mr. Montgomery. I desire on my own part to record, in the most em- 
phatic manner, an acknowledgment of the obligations of the Govern- 
ment of India to those distinguished officers, and its admiration of the 
ability, the energy, the judgment, and indefatigable devotion with which 
they have discharged the onerous and responsible duties entrusted to 
them, and of which I have been, for several years, a close and grateful 
observer. I request them to receive the most marked assurances of the 
cordial approbation and thanks of the Governor-General in Council ; and, 
at the same time, I beg leave to commend them to the favour and con- 
sideration of the Honourable Court. 

(Signed) Dalhousie. 

May 9, 1853. 

Finally, the Directors of the East India Company, whom Sir John 
Kaye, their chartered and chivalrous advocate, has not unjustly 
characterised as ' good masters, but very chary of gracious words,' 
proved, on the receipt of the Punjab report and of Lord Dalhousie's 
comments thereon, that they could, on occasion, not only not be 
chary of gracious words, but could be aroused into a genuine en- 

vol. 1. T 


We will not delay (they say) to express to you the high satisfaction 
with which we have read this record of a wise and eminently successful 
administration. In the short period which has elapsed since the Punjab 
became a part of the British dominions, results have been achieved such 
as could scarcely have been hoped for as the reward of many years of 
well-directed exertions. The formidable army, which it had required so 
many battles to subdue, has been quietly disbanded, and the turbulent 
soldiery have settled to industrious pursuits. Peace and security reign 
throughout the country, and the amount of crime is as small as in our 
best administered territories. Justice has been made accessible, without 
costly formalities, to the whole population. Industry and commerce 
have been set free. A great mass of oppressive and burdensome taxa- 
tion has been abolished. Money rents have been substituted for payment 
in kind, and a settlement of the land revenue has been completed in 
nearly the whole country, at a considerable reduction on the former 
amount. In the settlement, the best lights of recent experience have 
been turned to the utmost account, and the various errors, committed in 
a more imperfect state of our knowledge of India, have been carefully 
avoided. Cultivation has been largely increased. Notwithstanding the 
great sacrifices of revenue, there was a surplus, after defraying the civil 
and military expenses, of fifty-two lacs on the first, and sixty-four and 
a-half lacs on the second year after annexation. . . . Results like these 
reflect the greatest honour on the administration of your Lordship in 
Council, and on the system of Indian government generally. It is a 
source of just pride to us that our services, civil and military, should have 
afforded men capable, in so short a time, of carrying into full effect such 
a series of enlightened and beneficent measures. The executive func- 
tionaries in the subordinate ranks have proved themselves worthy of the 
honourable career which awaits them. The members of the Board of 
Administration — Sir Henry Lawrence, Mr. John Lawrence, Mr. Mansel, 
and Mr. Montgomery— have entitled themselves to be placed in the fore- 
most rank of Indian administrators. 

We are, your affectionate friends, 

(Signed) R. Ellice. 

J. Oliphant, &c, &c. 

London : October 26, 1G53. 

If any critic is disposed, malevolently or otherwise, to remark 
here that the eulogies of Lord Dalhousie were passed on what was, 
in part at least, his own handiwork, and so reflected credit on himself, 
and that the Directors based their judgment on the report drawn up 
by the actors themselves rather than on an immediate knowledge of 
the facts of the case, it is, perhaps, enough to point to the Mutiny, 
and to ask whether its experiences do not more than justify all that 


has been said in praise of the Punjab administration. Had there 
been any weak point in the system that fiery trial must have dis- 
covered and probed it to the utmost. No such weak point was found. 
But it is not without special interest, to me at least, to add that, 
after a conversation of many hours with the man who, perhaps of all 
others now living, is most familiar with the facts of the case, and was, 
throughout the best years of his life, most intimate with John Lawrence, 
I asked him point blank whether, looking back at this distance of 
time, he thought that any part of the ' Punjab Reports ' was too highly 
coloured, and whether, if they had now to be written, he would wish 
to modify anything therein. Sir Richard Temple, as the next chapter 
will show, though he was not Secretary to the Board, had done an 
important bit of the Secretary's work, some time before its final 
dissolution. It was his pen which helped largely to put the thoughts 
of the Lawrences into words and to record their achievements, and it 
is hardly necessary to add that, since that time, there is scarcely a 
corner of India which he has not visited or which has not been under 
his personal rule. Like the much-travelled Ulysses of old, he has seen 
the cities of many men and has learned their thoughts. He has out- 
lived most of the Lawrence generation, and has ruled or served another 
which knows all too little of them and theirs. But his answer to my 
question was unhesitating and emphatic. ' There is not a word,' he 
said, 'in the Punjab Reports which I would wish unwritten. On the 
contrary, I should feel justified in speaking now even more strongly 
of the achievements of the Board than I did then. I have borne, 
since that time, a part in the government of nearly every province in 
India, and now, looking back upon them all, I declare to you that I 
have seen no government to be compared with that of the Lawrences 
in the Punjab.' 

T 2 




In the last chapter I have given as clear and succinct a view as I 
could of the government of the Punjab by the Board of Administra- 
tion, of what they aimed at, and of what they accomplished. Bio- 
graphical the chapter is not, in the strict sense of the word, for I have 
been able to throw into it little that is distinctive of John Lawrence 
apart from his colleagues. The joint responsibility of the three 
members of the Board, the system by which all important measures 
were brought before them collectively, and the way in which, theoreti- 
cally at all events, they worked together for a common end, would 
have made it difficult to do so. Biographical, therefore, I repeat, the 
chapter is not. But none the less is it essential to this biography ; 
for, in the absence of private letters, we are compelled to judge of 
John Lawrence in great measure by what he did ; and it is on what 
he did in the Punjab during these, as well as in subsequent years 
when he stood alone in responsibility and power, that, in my judgment, 
his chief title to fame rests. It was this which enabled him to ride 
and to allay the storm when it burst forth. Not even his iron grasp 
could have held the Punjab during the crisis, had not that grasp been 
riveted before by something which was not of iron. The glory of 
suppressing the Mutiny is great, but the glory of having made that 
suppression possible beforehand is greater still. 

In the present chapter I purpose, so far as it is possible to do so, 
to bring out what is more personal and domestic in the life of John 
Lawrence during the same period of the Board (from March 1849 to 
January 1853), to lay stress on his individual work, and, in so doing, 
to quote freely from his demi-official letters, when they are of perma- 
nent interest. It is, in one respect, the most painful period of his 
life, for it deals with the severance — the inevitable and irrevocable 
severance — of two brothers, who were as able, as high-minded, as 
devoted to duty and to each other, as, perhaps, any two brothers ever 


were. But it is a subject which I am not at liberty to shirk. Her- 
man Merivale has treated it with ability and judgment from his stand- 
point as biographer of Sir Henry Lawrence. It remains for me to 
treat of it, as best I can, from my standpoint as the biographer of John 
Lawrence. Happily, there is no temptation to suppress aught that 
is necessary to the understanding of either of the two brothers. The 
characters of each will be brought out into strong relief. Neither of 
them will be found to be free from faults ; and, what I imagine those 
faults to have been, I shall endeavour to indicate, as both brothers 
would have wished their biographers to do, without fear and without 
favour. But there is nothing which need shrink from the light of day, 
or which, however painful, is discreditable to either. The great light 
which is said to beat upon a throne and blacken every blot, will find 
nothing to blacken here. 

The last glimpse we obtained of John Lawrence in the quiet of 
his own family, if such a word as quiet can ever be used of his toilsome 
life, was in March 1848, when, having rid himself, at last, of his 
troublesome ' acting ' post at Lahore, he returned, with his wife and 
children, to his own Commissionership of Jullundur, hoping, in the cool 
hill-station of Dhurmsala, to enjoy a brief period of comparative rest 
and domestic life, There was excellent shooting to be had in the 
neighbourhood, and I am able to relate, nearly in his own words, one 
striking incident of the chase : — 

It was in the year 1848, that my brother Richard, my wife, my 
children, and myself, went up into the hills, to a place called Dhurmsala, 
near Kangra. There was first-rate bear-shooting to be had in the country 
round ; so Richard, George Christian, and I myself, went off one day, 
accompanied by a suitable number of attendants who were to beat the 
bushes and rout out the animals. It was not long before we discovered 
an enormous bear concealed in a cavern. Many were our efforts to dis- 
lodge him, but all in vain, until one of the natives managed, by some 
means, to thrust a spear into him from behind. At first, this seemed 
hardly to disturb him ; but, as the man grew more persistent in his 
endeavours, Bruin, goaded into fury, rushed out to attack his enemies. 
I fired the moment I got sight of him, but only succeeded in wounding 
him. This made him more desperate. He rushed at me, and as I leaped 
back, my foot caught, and I rolled down the steep side of the hill amongst 
the thorns. In a moment he was upon me ; I felt his hot breath upon 
my face, and thought it was all up with me. But my companions rushed 
to the rescue, and Bruin turned round, uncertain whom to attack. Before 
Richard could fire, he had singled out a tall handsome Sepoy, had sprung 


upon him, and had torn his nose clean off his face. At this moment my 
brother fired, and, again, the bear was only wounded. Fortunately I had 
reloaded, and soon put an end to his existence by lodging a ball in his 
brain. I, at once, sent off a messenger to our house, carefully instructing 
him to tell my wife to prepare bandages and everything necessary, but to 
be sure to say that it was not I who was hurt. The moment he was off, 
I had the poor fellow put on a stretcher, and we all started for home. 
The unfortunate man was in dreadful pain, and his face was terribly 
lacerated ; but the only thing that seemed to affect him was the fact that' 
he was to have been married very shortly, and he was now afraid that his 
young woman would not have him, without a nose to his face. I tried to 
console him, but it was of no avail. 

Meanwhile, the messenger had reached my house, and, after giving 
my wife the message, had told her that I was hurt. What the rascal 
meant I do not know, but he succeeded in thoroughly alarming her, and 
she instantly came out to meet the cavalcade, bringing our two little 
daughters, Kate and Emmie, with her. When she first saw the men 
carrying the stretcher in the distance, she thought I must be dead. But 
she was soon able to recognise me among the bearers, and could hardly 
believe her ears when I told her that I was safe and sound. We had the 
Sepoy carried into his tent, and our own doctor at once looked to his 
hurts, but gave it as hfs opinion that he was disfigured for life. Now it 
occurred to me that I had heard of a native doctor who was celebrated 
in those parts for being able to make noses. I had never paid much 
attention to this report before, but I now thought that the least I could 
do was to summon the nose-maker, and let him try his skill on the Sepoy 
who had lost his nose in my service. So I sent for the man, and took 
him in to see the invalid. He declared he would make him a new nose 
which would be as good as the one he had lost. I bid him set to work, 
and he at once proceeded to cut a triangular piece of skin out of the 
Sepoy's forehead ; he put this over the place where the nose ought to be, 
and then pulled his face this way and that until, at last, he had quite a 
little lump resembling a nose on the man's face. He repeated the pulling 
process every day for a week, and finally produced a nose which, if not 
quite as good as the former one, was fairly presentable. The Sepoy's 
delight knew no bounds, especially as his young woman liked the new 
nose quite as much as the old one ; indeed, I believe she looked on him 
as quite a hero. 

John Lawrence's own escape had been a sufficiently narrow one. 
1 When I saw the bear and you rolling over one another,' said George 
Christian, who had been one of the party, ' I felt that my promotion 
was trembling in the balance.' 'You little villain !' exclaimed his 
chief; and, when telling his story, he used to say that when he 


picked himself up from his roll amidst the thorns, he was like a 
porcupine or a pincushion, ' stuck ' all over with them. ' It took my 
wife,' he said, ' a week or more to pull them out of my head.' 

The news of the murder of Agnew and Anderson at Mooltan, and 
the dull rumbling of the impending storm in the Punjab, soon called 
John Lawrence away from the excitement of bear-hunting to even 
more stirring scenes. He left his wife and family behind him, warn- 
ing them to be ready, on the receipt of a message from him, to come 
down with all speed to a place of safety in the plains. It was a 
pleasant spot, this Dhurmsala ; and the hill people around it, the 
Gudis, were simple and lovable, as a trifling but touching incident of 
one of the earlier visits of the Lawrences to the place will show. 
John Lawrence had been called off to Lahore, to help his brother, 
and as his wife was the only European left in the small hill-station, 
he had spoken, before his departure, to the headman of a neigh- 
bouring village, begging him to look after her, and see that the family 
had no difficulty in getting what they required. The old man came 
often to see her, dressed in the peculiar costume of the hill people, a 
large loose coat fastened by a belt round the waist, and out of its 
capacious hollow he used to produce various offerings in the shape 
of cucumbers or Indian corn, and, now and then, a live fowl or lamb. 
He took great interest in her welfare and was always most kind and 
courteous. Thinking that she was unhappy in her quiet life, he 
wrote privately to her husband at Lahore to say that she looked so 
melancholy, always walking about with her head down, that he advised 
him to return to her as soon as possible. Otherwise she might be 
turned into a pheasant and be seen no more ! Such was the odd 
superstition of this simple and kindly people. 

But even the attentions of the trusty Gudi could hardly have made 
Dhurmsala a safe place of residence for Mrs. John Lawrence during 
the summer of 1848. For many of the hill chieftains around were 
preparing to rise, and a hasty message from her husband warned her 
to make the best of her way to the hill fort of Kangra, where his 
brother Richard would help her. With her four young children and 
her English maid, she left the little village. Kangra was only twelve 
miles distant, but the journey was not an easy one and took many a 
long hour to accomplish. They were obliged to travel in what are 
now well known as jam-pans, a sort of chair carried by bearers. There 
were several heavily swollen streams to be crossed, and here the 
jampans were carried on the heads of the bearers instead of on their 


shoulders, while a second set of men walked alongside, helping them 
to hold their loads aloft Before evening, the travellers arrived within 
the walls of the Kangra fort, and were, soon afterwards, summoned 
by other messages from John Lawrence to Hoshiarpore and Jullundur. 
Here he had taken a house for her, and here she passed the winter 
in the company of her sister-in-law, Mrs. Barton, whose husband was 
with his regiment throughout the Chillianwallah campaign. During 
the winter, John Lawrence, who was also with the troops in the 
numerous small expeditions which I have described, managed oc- 
casionally to visit her. But, early in the spring, he was summoned 
to Lahore to meet his brother Henry, who had just then returned 
from England. 

At the end of March, the formal annexation of the Punjab took 
place, and John found himself, not altogether to his satisfaction, as 
his letters show, installed a member of the new governing Board. 
The hot weather was rapidly coming on and the Residency, as it has 
been described to me by those who have a good right to speak, was 
the busiest of all busy scenes. Some fifty officers and their families, 
arriving from various parts of India, and despatched with all haste 
through the roadless and still disturbed country to their various desti- 
nations ; the Lawrences and their secretaries working, as we may 
well believe, full sixty minutes to every hour ; every room and every 
bed in the Residency and the adjoining houses filled or over-filled, 
and crowds everywhere ! 

But (says Lady Lawrence), in spite of the overwhelming heat and 
turmoil, we were all too busy, I believe, to be ill. A wonderful work was 
accomplished during those days, and happy memories, indeed, have I of 
them. How I prized my evening drive with my husband ; and how 
vigorous and strong he was ! He was never too busy to attend to my 
wants, and help me in any troublesome matter ; and, in addition to his 
own hard work, he always made time to look after his brother's private 
affairs. Indeed, as that brother remarked, he would have saved little for 
his children but for John's wonderful aid. Always liberal with his private 
funds, and ready to help others, my husband spent as little as possible on 
himself, and was ever sparing of the public money, anxiously impressing 
on everyone the necessity of strict economy in the management of the new 
province. But this is so well known that it needs no words of mine ; 
only I like to show that, while he was careful for others, he never spared 
his own purse, or time, or trouble, when he could be helpful. 

The Board met, and infinite were the number and variety of the 


subjects calling for immediate attention. On Sir Henry Lawrence, 
as the President, naturally devolved what is called in India the 
' political,' as distinguished from the ' civil,' work of the annexed 
province. He was the recognised medium of communication with 
the Supreme Government, and the racy and incisive letters of Lord 
Dalhousie, now before me, written to him day by day, and, sometimes, 
two or three on the same day, during the months which preceded and 
followed the annexation, give a pretty clear idea, in the absence of 
other documents, of the multifarious duties which fell, in the first 
instance, on him as President, and, afterwards, on the other members 
of the Board. The disbanding and then the partial re-enrolment of 
the Sikh army ; the disarmament of the people ; the treatment of 
the fallen Sirdars ; the raising of Irregulars ; the selection of mili- 
tary stations with gardens for the troops ; the arrangements for the 
Guides and Engineers ; the dismissal of Captain Cunningham by the 
Directors for the publication of his able and honest — too honest — 
history of the Sikhs ; the trial of Moolraj ; the care of the young 
Maharaja ; the escape of the Maharani ; the safe custody of the Crown 
jewels (of which more anon) ; the Afridi troubles, 'a plaguy set,' as 
Lord Dalhousie calls them ; the preparation to receive the onslaught 
of Sir Charles Napier on the whole system of the administration of 
the Punjab, — these are but a fraction of the subjects with which Lord 
Dalhousie's letters deal, and which would come before John Lawrence 
as a member of the Board, though the initiative would rest not with 
him, but with his brother. 

John Lawrence's own immediate duties were connected with the 
civil administration, and especially with the settlement of the land 
revenue. This was the work for which his admirable civil training 
had especially fitted him. He was now to reap the appropriate 
reward — a reward not of repose, but of redoubled work and responsi- 
bility—for those long years which he had spent almost alone among 
the dusky myriads of Paniput and Gurgaon, Etawa and Delhi. It 
was now that his knowledge of all classes of the natives, acquired, as 
it only could be acquired, by the closest intimacy with them, stored 
up in the most retentive of memories, and never allowed to rust for 
want of use — was to be called into abundant requisition. The 
' mysteries ' of the revenue survey and of the revision of the settle- 
ment were no mysteries to him, for he had long since been brought 
face to face with the difficulties which they suggested, and had been 
able, in great measure, to overcome them. 


He knew (says Sir John Kaye, the friend of both brothers alike) how 
the boundaries of estates were determined, how their productiveness was 
to be increased, how revenue was to be raised in a manner most advan- 
tageous to the State and least injurious to the people. And with all 
this extensive knowledge were united energy and activity of the highest 
order. He had the enthusiasm of youth with the experience of age, and 
envy and detraction could say nothing worse of him than that he was 
the brother of Sir Henry Lawrence. 

And, indeed, there was enough to be done in the Punjab to tax 
all this experience, all this energy, and all this enthusiasm to the utmost. 
Differences of opinion between the brothers on matters of policy soon 
began to reveal themselves, or rather were brought into greater pro- 
minence by the fact that they were now, for the first time, sitting on 
equal terms at the same council table. These differences had never 
been disguised. On the contrary, they had been fully recognised by 
each, as the letters of John Lawrence to his brother, which I have 
already quoted, show. But while John had been merely ' acting ' for 
Henry at Lahore, he had, of course, set himself loyally to carry out 
his views, especially where they most differed from his own. More- 
over, the questions between them respecting jagheers, the privileges 
and position of the native aristocracy, and the like, had been theo- 
retical rather than practical, so long as the annexation of the Punjab 
was only looming in the distance and had not become a thing of the 
past. But now the decree had gone forth ; the questions referred to 
had come within the range of practical politics ; and the differences 
began to be more vital. Each brother had a quick temper, though 
Henry's was the least under control of the two ; each had a clear 
head and a firm will ; each had an equal voice at the Board ; and 
each was fully convinced of the expediency and justice of the view 
which he himself held. But these were only the first mutterings of 
an explosion which might be postponed for many a month or year — ■ 
possibly, might never break forth at all — and some of the earlier 
meetings of the volcanic Board seem to have been amusing enough. 

Here is a sample. Shortly before the decree of annexation went 
forth, Lord Dalhousie had written to Henry Lawrence to make every 
disposition for the safe custody of the State jewels which were about 
to fall into the lap of the English. And, writing to him again on 
April 27, on the subject of the Maharani, who had just escaped from 
our hands, he remarks : — ' This incident, three months ago, would 
have been inconvenient. Now, it does not so much signify. At the 


same time, it is discreditable, and I have been annoyed by the occur- 
rence. As guardians seem so little to be trusted, 1 hope you have 
taken proper precautions in providing full security for the jewels and 
Crown property at Lahore, whose removal would be a more serious 
affair than that of the Maharani.' It had, in fact, been found more 
than once, on the enrolment of some new province in our Empire, 
which, whether by cession, by lapse, or by forcible annexation, was 
growing, or about to grow, so rapidly, that the State jewels or money 
had had a knack of disappearing. It is amusing, in the correspon- 
dence before me, to read the expressions of virtuous indignation 
which bubble over from our officers at the extravagance, or rapacity, 
or carelessness of the former owners, when on entering a palace, 
which they deemed would be stocked with valuables ready for 
English use, they found that the treasury was empty and the jewels 
were gone. Great care was, therefore, needful, especially as among 
the Punjab jewels was the matchless Koh-i-noor, the ' mountain of 
light,' which it was intended should be expressly surrendered by the 
young Maharaja to the English Queen. 

The origin of this peerless 'jewel is lost in the mists of legendary 
antiquity. It had fallen into the hands of the early Turkish invaders 
of India, and, from them, it had passed to the Moguls. 'My son 
Humayoun,' says the illustrious Baber, one of the most lovable of all 
Eastern monarchs, ' has won a jewel from the Raja which is valued 
at half the daily expenses of the whole world ! ' A century or two 
later, the Persian conqueror, Nadir Shah, seeing it glitter in the 
turban of Baber's conquered descendant, exclaimed with rough and 
somewhat costly humour, ' We will be friends ; let us change our 
turbans in pledge of friendship.' And the exchange, of course, took 

Xpvaea ^oXk€lo)v } iKaTo/ifiot €Vvea(Soia)v. 

The Afghan conqueror, Ahmed Shah, wrested it, in his turn, From 
the feeble hands of Nadir Shah's successors, and so it came into the 
possession of Shah Sooja, who was, by turns, the pensioner and the 
puppet of the English, and the miserable pretext of the first disas- 
trous Afghan war. Half-prisoner and half- guest of Runjeet Sing, he 
had been relieved by the one-eyed, money-loving Sikh of the respon- 
sibility of keeping so valuable a treasure. Runjeet, listening, on his 
death-bed, to the suggestions of a wily Brahmin, had been half dis- 
posed, like other death-bed penitents, to make his peace with the 
•other world by sending the beautiful jewel to adorn the idol of Jug- 


gernaut. But fate reserved it for the custody of the Punjab Board, 
and for the ultimate possession of the English Crown. One incident 
of its transfer not generally known, I am able to relate on the best 

At one of the early meetings of the Board, the jewel had been 
formally made over to the Punjab Government, and by it committed 
to the care of John Lawrence. Perhaps, the other members of the 
Board thought him the most practical and business-like— as no 
doubt in most matters he was — of the three ; or they deemed that 
his splendid physique, and the gnarled and knotted stick which, fit 
emblem of himself, he always carried with him — and which the Sikhs, 
thinking it to be a kind of divining-rod or familiar spirit, christened 
by its owner's name, 'Jan Larens' — would be the best practical 
security for its safe keeping. But } in this instance, they misjudged 
their man. How could a man so careless of the conventionalities 
of life, a man who never wore a jewel on his person, till the orders 
and clasps which he won compelled him to do so, and, even then, 
used to put them so remorselessly in the wrong place that the Court 
costumier exclaimed in despair, that he would lose reputation by him, 
in spite of all his pains, — how, I ask, was it likely that such a man 
would realise the inestimable value of the jewel entrusted to him ? 
And, again, what was the custody of a Court jewel compared with 
that of the happiness of the millions for which he was also responsible? 
Anyhow, half-unconsciously he thrust it, wrapped up in numerous 
folds of cloth, into his waistcoat pocket, the whole being contained 
in an insignificant little box, which could be thus easily put away. 
He went on working as hard as usual, and thought no more of his 
precious treasure. He changed his clothes for dinner, and threw his 
waistcoat aside, still forgetting all about the box contained in it ! 

About six weeks afterwards, a message came from Lord Dalhousie, 
saying that the Queen had ordered the jewel to be at once transmitted 
to her. The subject was mentioned by Sir Henry at the Board, when 
John said quietly, ' Send for it at once.' ' Why, you've got it ! ' said 
Sir Henry. In a moment, the fact of his carelessness flashed across 
him. He was horror-stricken, and, as he used to describe his feelings 
afterwards, when telling the story, he said to himself, ' Well, this is 
the worst trouble I have ever yet got into ! ' But such was his 
command over his countenance that he gave no external sign of 
trepidation : ' Oh yes, of course ; I forgot about it,' he said, and went 
on with the business of the meeting as if nothing had happened. 


He soon, however, found an opportunity of slipping away to his 
private room, and, with his heart in his mouth, sent for his old bearer 
and said to him, ' Have you got a small box which was in my waist- 
coat pocket some time ago ? ' ' Yes, Sahib,' the man replied, ' Dibbia 
(the native word for it), I found it and put it in one of your boxes.' 
* Bring it here,' said the Sahib. Upon this, the old native went to a 
broken-down tin box, and produced the little one from it. ' Open it,' 
said John Lawrence, 'and see what is inside.' He watched the man, 
anxiously enough, as fold after fold of the small rags was taken off, 
and great was his relief when the precious gem appeared. The 
bearer seemed perfectly unconscious of the treasure which he had 
had in his keeping. ' There is nothing here, Sahib,' he said, c but a 
bit of glass ! ' 

The Koh-i-noor w r as then quickly presented to the Board that it 
might be forwarded to the Queen ; and when John Lawrence told 
them his story, great was the amusement it caused. The jewel passed, 
I am told on good authority, through one or two other striking 
vicissitudes before it was safely lodged in the English crown. But 
never, I feel sure, whether flashing in the diadem of Turk or Mogul, 
or in the uplifted sword of Persian, or Afghan, or Sikh conqueror, 
did it pass through so strange a crisis, or run a greater risk of being 
lost for ever, than when it lay forgotten in the waistcoat pocket of 
John Lawrence, or in the broken-down tin box of his aged bearer. 

I have spoken of the number and perplexity of the subjects 
which came before the Board for consideration in its early days. 
Henry Lawrence was not well at the time of annexation. He had 
returned hastily from England, without taking the rest which had 
been prescribed as essential for him, and in sore distress of mind at 
the mismanagement which, as he conceived, had led to the second 
Sikh war. The annexation of the Punjab overthrew the dream of a 
lifetime — the establishment of a strong, friendly, independent native 
power between ourselves and the wild Afghan tribes. He had 
struggled against the idea of annexation while it was yet in the future 
with all the chivalry and generosity of his nature ; and now that it 
was an accomplished fact, he accepted it as such, set himself to make 
the best of it, and struggled, with the same chivalry and generosity, 
to ease the fall of the privileged classes. He contested every inch of 
ground with Lord Dalhousie and with his brother John, who saw, 
more clearly than he did, how was, in view of the 
poverty of the masses, for the two systems of government — the native 

286 LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. 1849-52- 

feudal system, based on huge grants of land, on immunities from 
taxation, and on military service ; and our own, based on equality 
before the law, on equal and light assessments, and on reforms and 
improvements of every kind — to exist side by side. The more that 
could be left to the Sirdars of their dignity, their power, their property, 
their immunities, the better, in Henry Lawrence's judgment ; the 
worse in John's and in Lord Dalhousie's. In the one case, the few 
would gain ; in the other, the many. It was one of those questions 
on which honest and honourable and far-seeing men might well 

It may, perhaps, be said that it is as difficult not to feel with 
Henry Lawrence as not to think with John. In the one brother the 
emotional part of our nature tended to predominate ; in the other 
the intellectual and the practical. Each had a warm heart and a 
clear head, and each, beyond question, had a conscience whose 
dictates were law. But the strong sympathies of Henry tended, at 
times, to overbalance his judgment ; and the clearness of John's 
judgment tended to repress, or, at least, to keep under a too stern 
control, the feelings of his heart. The partisans of the one brother 
might be excused if they called the other nighty and unpractical ; the 
partisans of that other, if they deemed the first rigorous and hard. 
But it would have been as impossible for the partisans of John not 
to love Henry, as for the partisans of Henry not to trust John. 

Each brother, fully conscious that the other would, as far as 
possible, oppose and thwart his views on this and cognate questions, 
pressed them, probably, to a greater extent than he would otherwise 
have done. It was human nature that it should be so. The friction, 
the tension, the heartburning, were intense ; for this question of the 
treatment of the Sirdars underlay and tended to colour and to become 
intermixed with all the others. But the result, as I have already said, 
was, beyond doubt, advantageous to the State. The privileged classes 
fell, as they needs must ; but it was, to a certain extent, by a gradual 
and mitigated fall, thanks chiefly to the uphill battle fought by Henry 
Lawrence. The masses received an equivalent for the loss of their 
national life in the freedom from oppression, in the security of life 
and property, in costly improvements and yet in lightened assess- 
ments, thanks chiefly to the statesmanlike views and the untiring 
assiduity of John Lawrence. 

Certainly, it would have fared ill with the great Sirdars who had 
favoured the rebellion had they been left to the tender mercies of 


Lord Dalhousie. That they had anything left to them beyond ' their 
lives and the barest maintenance' was due to Henry Lawrence's 
earnest and importunate entreaties. ' Stripped of all rank, deprived 
of all property, reduced, each of them, to a monthly pittance of two 
hundred rupees, confined within very narrow limits, and then watched, 
well knowing that an attempt at flight would be made at the risk of 
their lives ; ' — such is the description of the Sirdars given on August 
25, not by the highly coloured imagination of Henry Lawrence, but 
by Lord Dalhousie himself, in view of the misgivings of the Directors 
at home, who feared that they might still be the cause of another 
Punjab war. 

The work and the worry entailed by the annexation had already 
begun to tell on Henry Lawrence's enfeebled health. The heat of 
the season was more than usually intense. It was, as Lord Dalhousie 
called it, ' a killing summer ' for those who had to work through it. 
Everybody at Lahore suffered, Henry Lawrence most of all ; and he 
was driven, much against his will, to apply for a month's leave of 
absence at Kussowlie. John Lawrence thus found himself, for the 
first time, on May 21, 1849, in the doubly delicate and difficult 
position which it was to be his to fill so often during his brother's 
Presidency of the Board. Left at Lahore, with one colleague only, 
who, with all his unquestioned ability, was disposed rather to criticise 
than to originate, to point out difficulties rather than to drive through 
them, he found that nearly the whole weight of the current business 
of the country was put upon his shoulders. 

Henry Lawrence was, by nature, locomotive. Office work was 
distasteful to him. He had not passed through the long years of 
civil training which would have fitted him for it ; and his natural 
disposition, his enfeebled health, the friction at the Board, already 
painfully felt, and the craving for that kind of life and work in which 
he was conscious that he could do most good, all combined to make 
it likely that, when it could legitimately be so, he would be found 
working elsewhere than at Lahore. A young civilian who had done 
good work in the Jullundur district, and who had a turn for epigram, 
remarked, during a visit to Lahore, with as much, perhaps, of truth 
and cleverness as an epigram usually contains, that the Punjab was 
governed by a firm of three partners, who might be characterised as 
the 'travelling,' the 'working,' and the 'sleeping' partner respectively. 
To spend four or five months in each year under canvas, riding some 
thirty or forty miles a day ; to inspect a salt-mine, a fort, a gaol, an 


asylum, or a bazaar ; to dash off a review article in rough outline, 
leaving his ever-ready wife to fill up the hiatuses of grammar or of 
sense ; to see with his own eyes every portion of his province, and 
to visit and converse freely with every class among his subjects, and 
with each and all of his subordinates, as far as possible, in their own 
homes, breathing into them all something of his own noble spirit, — 
this was exactly the life, with its variety, its freshness, its intensity, its 
human interest, which suited Henry Lawrence, and brought out the 
power in which, by all accounts, he seems to have been unique 
among his contemporaries, that of influencing men through their 
affections and their hearts. He was a man for whom, as I have been 
told repeatedly by those who had the best opportunity of knowing, 
and who are not given to exaggerate, peradventure, not one only, 
but a dozen, men in the Punjab would have even been prepared 
to die. 

But though the peregrinations of Henry Lawrence were often 
necessary, and were always productive of benefit to that portion of 
his province which he visited, there were drawbacks attending them 
which could not but be felt, immediately by his colleagues and ulti- 
mately, also, by himself. It was not merely that the amount of work 
which was thrown upon those who were left behind was greater, but 
that there was an element of uncertainty in all that they did. Even 
if they knew their own minds fully, they could not be sure that they 
knew that of the President. Henry Lawrence often did not know 
his own mind. He was touchy and fitful : a disturbing element, 
therefore, on whose erratic movements it was impossible to count 
beforehand, and whose reappearance, at a critical moment, might, 
like that of Mr. Gladstone, in his place in Parliament, during his 
temporary retirement from public life, undo a great deal that had 
been done, or half-done, without him. Achilles absent was Achilles 
still. His frequent absences from Lahore tended, moreover, to bring 
his brother John into a prominence which he would never have sought 
for himself, and which, as far as possible, he shunned. It forced him 
to be, in many important matters, the medium of communication 
between the Board and Lord Dalhousie, and gave that clear-sighted 
Governor- General opportunities, which he might not otherwise have 
had, of comparing the aptitudes and capabilities of the two brothers, 
and of making up his mind, if circumstances should ever compel 
'him to choose between them, as to the one on whom his choice 
should fall. 


In September, Henry Lawrence set out on a prolonged tour 
through Huzara and Kashmere. Lord Dalhousie had not been un- 
willing that the President of the Board should see with his own eyes 
what was going on in Huzara, the domain of James Abbott, whose 
fatherly rule there — the rule, as he somewhat bitterly calls it, 'of 
prophet, priest, and king ' — he seems to have regarded with suspicion 
and mislike. But he had expressed a doubt whether the remaining 
members would be able to carry on the work without him. The 
' killing summer ' had pretty well done its work. Ten men of the 
young Punjab establishment were already hors de combat. Mansel, 
the third member of the Board, and Christian, its Secretary, were ill, 
whilst Edwardes and Nicholson, who were each in themselves a tower 
of strength, were shortly going home on leave. But John Lawrence 
stepped into the gap and filled it as few others could have done, and, 
from this time forward, I find that he is in regular communication 
with Lord Dalhousie, giving his views freely on each question as it 
came up, but taking especial care to lay stress on his brother's views 
where they differed from his own. His heavy office work was perhaps 
relieved, rather than increased, by news which seemed to promise 
something of an adventure, and so to recall the long bygone days of 

Chuttur and Shere Sing had been allowed, as the upshot of the 
long controversy between Henry Lawrence and Lord Dalhousie, to 
reside in their own homes at Attari, but they were already, so it was 
believed by some of the authorities at Lahore, feeling their way 
towards another rising. They were feeding, day by day, a lot of 
Brahmins and Khuttris ; messengers, it was reported, were passing 
to and fro between Attari, Sealkote, and Umritsur, where others of the 
fallen Sirdars were living ; and it was even whispered that treasonable 
communications had come from Golab Sing in Kashmere, and from 
Dost Mohammed at Kabul. 'Brahmins and barbers,' says John 
Lawrence to Lord Dalhousie, 'the two classes of people who are 
usually engaged in all kind of intrigues, have been repeatedly seen at 
Attari.' Here was a piece of work which might have been safely left 
to the local officers, but the spirit of the man who had tracked out the 
murderer of William Fraser was awakened, and he determined to take 
a chief part in it himself. At one o'clock a.m. on the morning of 
October the 1st, he started on the enterprise, accompanied by 
Montgomery, Commissioner of Lahore, by Edwardes, by Hodson, 
and a small force. It was a clear moonlight night, and a rapid ride 

vol. 1. u 

290 LIFE OF LORD LA WRENCE. 1849-52 

brought them by dawn of day to the spot. They quietly surrounded 
the village ; arrested Chuttur Sing in his own house ; followed up and 
arrested his sons, who had just gone out to ride ; and brought the 
whole party back in triumph to Lahore, before anyone in the city 
had guessed that such an expedition was even meditated. The other 
Sirdars at Umritsur and Sealkote were arrested almost simultaneously. 
Arms were discovered buried in various places, a suspicious corre- 
spondence with Dost Mohammed and with Golab Sing, ' a hart of 
many tynes,' as Lord Dalhousie calls him, was seized, and the un- 
fortunate Sirdars were, not long afterwards, removed to a place of 
greater safety in Hindustan. 

Bhai Maharaja Sing, the Guru who had headed the outbreak in 
the Jullundur Doab in the preceding year, and who, after being 
drowned, as it was reported, in the Chenab, had lately come to life 
and light again at Denanuggur, was finally disposed of about the 
same time. Like Aristomenes, among the Messenians of old, after 
one of his miraculous escapes, or like Schamyl, under similar 
circumstances, among the Circassians, he had been received with 
double reverence by his followers on his return from the dead. 
His followers carefully concealed his whereabouts, and, before an 
expedition could be concerted against him, he crossed back into 
Jullundur, where he was apprehended by Vansittart. And, with his 
disappearance from the scene, there passed away the last danger of 
any rising in the Punjab. 

Another subject which occupied very much of John Lawrence's 
time during the first autumn of the existence of the Board was the 
preparation of an elaborate report, in which he took the bold step of 
advising the total abolition of all customs and transit duties in the 
Punjab. ' Our true policy,' he writes to Lord Dalhousie, ' is to give 
up every restriction that we can possibly do without, and retain the 
land-tax. By this means we conciliate the masses, and, especially, 
the industrial classes. Customs levies are harassing in all countries \ 
in this country they are intolerable.' After a long correspondence, 
the wished-for reform was introduced, and trade in the Punjab was 
henceforth allowed to run in its natural channels, freed from all 
artificial obstructions. 

But that which gave the overburdened Punjab administration 
more trouble and occupied more of its time than any other subject, 
during the first year of its existence, was the attitude taken up towards 
it by the impracticable genius whom the outburst of popular indigna- 


tion after the battle of Chillianwallah had summoned from England 
to the command of the Indian army. 'If you don't go, I must,' the 
Duke of Wellington is reported to have said to Sir Charles Napier, 
when he hesitated to accept the post which was offered to him. His 
scruples were soon overcome ; his ambition was fired ; and he went 
out revolving magnificent schemes of conquest and reform, which 
were not bounded even by the horizon of India. He landed in 
Calcutta, on May 6, 1849, and set off with all speed for Simla. But 
he was already a disappointed man. He had expected to find war, and 
he found peace. Our half- victorious enemies of Chillianwallah had 
become our peaceful and half-contented subjects ; and, to make the 
disappointment more complete, the conquered country had passed 
under the control of those ' politicals ' upon whose assumed incapacity, 
alike in peace and in war, the conqueror and pacificator of Scinde had 
never ceased to pour out the vials of his contempt. ' I would 
rather,' he wrote to his brother on June 22, 'be Governor of the 
Punjab than Commander-in-Chief.' Fortunately, or unfortunately, he 
could not now be Governor of the Punjab ; and, in his vexation, he 
used the opportunities which his post as Commander-in-Chief gave 
him, with the result, if not with the intention, of making it doubly 
difficult for anyone else to be so either. 

His biography, written by his admiring brother William, and, still 
more, his own posthumous work on ' Indian Mis-government,' con- 
tain a strange medley of petulances, egotisms, and vagaries, which 
overlie and overshadow the flashes of insight, and even of genius, 
embedded within them. These two works, together with the volu- 
minous memoranda and counter-memoranda of Sir Charles Napier 
himself, of Lord Dalhousie, and of the Punjab Board, together also 
with the letters in my possession which passed between the Lawrence 
brothers and the Governor-General, afford an embarrassing wealth of 
materials for this portion of my subject. There is little of permanent 
interest in the details of the controversy. But its echoes may, perhaps, 
still be heard in the differences which separate the Scinde school from 
that of the Punjab — the supporters, that is, of a military as opposed 
to a civil administration, and which, in later times, assuming another 
and a more serious shape, have divided Indian statesmen into two 
groups— those who, in view of the advance of Russia towards our 
Indian frontier, would push on to meet her, annexing or absorbing 
Afghanistan and the adjacent regions in the process, and those who, 
clinging with redoubled firmness to the natural frontier marked out 

u 2 


by the Indus and the Suliman wall, would only advance into the 
savage country which lies beyond, as the allies of the inhabitants 
against a threatened invasion. The most brilliant representative of 
the one school is, perhaps, Sir Bartle Frere ; the most illustrious 
representative of the other is, beyond all question, Lord Lawrence. 
The controversy, therefore, has a bearing on the whole course of this 

That a struggle for supremacy would take place between two 
spirits so masterful and so autocratic as those of the Governor- 
General and the Commander-in-Chief might have been foreseen from 
the beginning. But it was equally clear that the man who was armed 
with * incontestably superior authority,' and was capable of stern self- 
control, would beat out of the field the brilliant and unmanageable 
old soldier, who had ' the faculty of believing without a reason and 
of hating without a provocation ; ' and was disposed to think nothing 
right unless he or his had the doing of it. Sir Charles Napier was 
now sixty-eight years of age — nearly double, that is, the age of his 
antagonist — but the feeling that he was in command of an army of 
300,000 men made him, for the time, feel young again ; and, in spite 
of a disease which was ultimately to prove fatal, he buckled down to 
his work at Simla, sitting at his desk, as he tells us himself, for some 
fifteen hours a day. At his very first interview with the Governor- 
General, if we can possibly believe the account given by Sir Charles 
in his posthumous work, the spirit of antagonism flashed forth between 
them. ' I have been warned,' said Lord Dalhousie, ' not to allow 

you to encroach on my authority, and I will take good care you 

do not.' 

But a few quotations taken almost at random from Sir Charles's 
own letters and diaries, written at the time, will give a better idea than 
any lengthened description of the man with whom the Punjab Board 
— which was still in the throes of its birth, and which might have ex- 
pected gentler treatment from its natural guardians — had now to deal. 

Governing the Punjab (he says, writing from Calcutta shortly after his 
arrival on May 22) by a court of ' politicals ' is curious, and it is scarcely 
to be believed that Dalhousie means this. . . . Instead of tying up the 
faggot of sticks, the political system seems to untie the bundle. The 
situation of the troops alarms me ; they are everywhere deficient in cover 
and, of course, crowded. . . . We have 54,000 men in the Punjab. This 
is not necessary: with good government 20,000 would suffice, but not 
with a 'Board of Administration' as it is called! This Board has not 


yet got a police; and it has 18,000 men as guards, of whom neither the 
Commander-in-Chief nor the Adjutant-General know a word, and they 
are from sixteen to one hundred miles distant from any military station. 

Again : — 

Strange as it seems, I have no patronage. Lord Hardinge raised 
eighteen new regiments, and did not give Lord Gough the disposal of a 
single commission. Lord Dalhousie has raised ten, and not a commis- 
sion at my disposal ! Indeed, they were all given away before I came. 
The Governors-General keep these things for themselves. 

On August 2, he writes in his journal : — 

Begun a letter to Lord Dalhousie, telling him that, if the army is not 
relieved from the pressure of the civil power, India is not safe. The habit 
is that all Civil servants have guards of honour, and treasury guards, and 
God knows what, till, when added to the military guards and duties, the 
soldiers are completely knocked up. This shall not go on if I can stop it, 
and Lord Dalhousie is well disposed to help me. . He seems a good fellow 
and sharp, but I doubt his abilities being equal to the ruling of this vast 

Such was Sir Charles Napier's opinion of Lord Dalhousie. Here 
is his opinion of the Lawrences, and of their relation to the Governor- 
General : — 

The Lawrences have been forced upon Lord Dalhousie ; the Punjab 
system is not his — at least he tells me so. . . Henry Lawrence is a good 
fellow, but I doubt his capacity. His brother John is said to be a clever 
man, and I am inclined to think he is ; but a man may have good sense 
and yet not be fit to rule a large country. 

Here is his description of his own position, as it appeared to 
himself : — 

I am Commander-in-Chief of the Indian army, but I cannot order 
a man to move. I must write a letter to one secretary, who writes to 
another, who addresses a third, who asks the Governor- General's leave 
to move the company back from Batalu. The house that Jack built is 
a joke to it. The commander of 300,000 men can't move three com- 
panies out of danger without leave from the Civil power ! I will not stay 
in India. 

And here, once more, is his description of himself as he ought to 
be— if ever, that is, his ideal commonwealth, the counterpart of the 
philosopher-kings, or king-philosophers, of Plato could be realised, 
when a Sir Charles Napier should be king of England, or the king of 


England should be a Sir Charles Napier. It is a curious mixture of 
the grand and the grotesque, the sublime and the pathetic : — 

Would that I were king of India ! I would make Muscowa and 
Pekin shake. . . . The five rivers and the Punjab, the Indus and Scinde, 
the Red Sea and Malta ! what a chain of lands and waters to attach 
England to India ! Were I king of England, I would, from the palace 
of Delhi, thrust forth a clenched fist in the teeth of Russia and France. 
England's fleet should be all in all in the West, and the Indian army all 
in all in the East. India should not belong another day to the 'igno- 
minious tyrants,' nor should it depend upon opium sales, but on an im- 
mense population well employed in peaceful pursuits. She should suck 
English manufactures up her great rivers, and pour down those rivers her 
own varied products. Kurrachi, you will yet be the glory of the East ! 
Would that I could come alive again to see you, Kurrachi, in your gran- 
deur ! 

As for the high Indian authorities who were opposed, or — what 
was the same thing — whom he assumed would be opposed, to him, 
his views of them are equally explicit. 

By an old Indian I mean a man full of curry and of bad Hindustani, 
with a fat liver and no brains, but with a self-sufficient idea that no one 
can know India except through long experience of brandy, champagne, 
gram-fed mutton, cheroots, and hookahs. 1 

It was with such feelings towards those who were above, and below, 
and around him, that the doughty old Commander-in-Chief addressed 
himself to the military tour of inspection on which he started from 
Simla, on October 13. It was a tour intended to result in great re- 
forms, and was full of growls and grievances of every description. 
His keen eye of course detected many real blots in the military system. 
But the indiscriminate censure he poured on all existing arrangements 
minimised the effect of his criticisms where they were really deserved. 
The barracks no doubt needed much improvement everywhere. But 
his remarks on ' that infernal military Board,' and his comparison of 
their barracks to the ' Black Hole of Calcutta ' and to ' slaughter- 
houses,' were certain only to rouse the ire of the authorities, and to 
cause their barracks to remain something like Black Holes and 
slaughter-houses still. Anyhow, in his criticism of the army arrange- 
ments, he was speaking of that which lay within his province, and 

1 See Life of Sir Charles Napier, vol. iv. pp. 166, 170, 173, 181, 183, 2o8„ 


with which he might be supposed to be acquainted. But in his 
attack on the whole of the Punjab Administration, which he bound 
up with it, he was speaking of that of which he knew, and was deter- 
mined to know, nothing at all. It should be remembered that, when 
he began to write his attack, he had paid only a flying visit of two 
days to the Punjab ; had given Henry Lawrence only one private 
interview ; had grudged him even that ; and had treated the in- 
formation he had given him with undisguised contempt. Sincerely 
believing that he himself was the one able and honest man in India, 
and that every civil administrator, with the exception of Thomason 
and W. Edwards, who, somehow, seem to have got on his soft side, 
was either a fool or a knave, and probably both, it was not likely 
that he would spare the ' ignorant civilians and brainless politicals,' 
' the gentlemen who wore red coats but who were not soldiers,' who 
had deprived him of the chance of governing the Punjab, as he had 
governed Scinde, and whose handiwork he now had it in his power 
to appraise. And so, drawing on his prejudices for his facts, and on 
his wishes for his prophecies of the future, he had no difficulty in 
setting before Lord Dalhousie a sufficiently gloomy picture of the 
Punjab as it was, and as it was destined to be. 

He arrived at Lahore on November 30. His Report was not 
then finished, so that he had a chance of getting information on the 
spot from those who were most competent and anxious to give it. 
But he avoided the society of the Lawrences, declined to discuss 
any public matters with them, and returned no answer to their 
pressing inquiries as to that on which so many of their own measures, 
in particular, the line taken by the Grand Trunk Road, must depend 
— his military arrangements for the province. They could not find 
out from him where a single cantonment was to be, nor even, whether 
they were or were not to be responsible for the defence of the frontier 
and the organisation of its defenders. He would allow the site of no 
cantonment to be fixed till he had seen it with his own eyes ; and 
this, though he had had at his disposal, for months past, the eyes and 
the experience of soldiers like Sir Walter Gilbert and Sir Colin Camp- 
bell, both of whom held high commands, at the time, in the Punjab. 

Such being the circumstances under which his Report was pre- 
pared and completed, we are not surprised to find that its assertions 
are always exaggerated and are often reckless and untrue. The 
Sikhs — a fact unknown to the Punjab Government and to everybody 
else, but, somehow, revealed to Sir Charles Napier for the purposes of 


his Report — were, he said, daily casting guns in holes in the jungles 
and meditating revolt ! Golab Sing's power was enormous — though 
Henry Lawrence had written to him from Kashmere giving the 
details gathered on the spot, demonstrating the exact reverse — and 
he too was preparing for war ! The inhabitants of the alpine district 
to the north of the Jullundur Doab were, as he described them, dis- 
satisfied Sikh soldiers, not, as they really were, submissive and con- 
tented Rajpoots ! The discontent shown by a few regiments, first at 
Rawul Pindi and afterwards at Wuzeerabad, in connection with the 
lowering of their pay, was a perfectly natural incident of such a 
change. But it was magnified by Sir Charles, as he looked back 
upon it in after years, into a portentous and premeditated mutiny 
of some thirty battalions which, had he not been there to deal with it, 
might have threatened our power in India ; and this, though Lord 
Dalhousie, who was responsible for the maintenance of that power, 
Sir Walter Gilbert, who was in high command in the Punjab, Henry 
and John Lawrence, who were going in and out amongst the troops, 
and the Duke of Wellington, to whom the evidence of the ' mutiny ' 
was afterwards submitted by Sir Charles himself — all judged it to be 
the creature of his own imagination. The force of 54,000 men 
which garrisoned the conquered province, and which, if he were 
Governor, might, he said, be cut down at once to 20,000, and soon 
to something much less, it was necessary to maintain only because 
the Punjab Government was bad, and because another insurrection 
was impending ! The irregular troops, police, &c, who were indepen- 
dent of him, and who did the main part of the active .work of the 
country, were nothing but ' paid idlers, 5 who gave no protection at all 
to the civil servants of the Crown ! ' In military matters,' so he sums 
up his opinion, ' the Punjab Administration is only worthy of censure, 
and its system appears to me clearly tending to produce early dislike 
to our rule and possible insurrection. . . . The Government is feeble 
and expensive, when it ought to be strong and economical.' ■ A 
large revenue and a quiet people,' he adds, with an honesty which 
was habitual, and with a modesty which was rare in him, ' will make 
me out a false prophet.' But, meanwhile, the upshot of the whole 
Report was that the Scinde military system ought to be the model 
for the Punjab and for the rest of India. All civil government was 
self-condemned. 1 

1 See Indian Misgovernment, by Sir Charles Napier, passim ; and compare 
Sir Henry Lawrence's answer to it in the Calcutta Review, vol. xxii. 

1 849- 5 2 HENRY AND JOHN LAWRENCE. 297 

A document of this character could not fail to arouse the suscep- 
tibilities of Lord Dalhousie. It touched him in his tenderest point ; 
for the Punjab Government was his own creation. But the annoyance 
it occasioned was not unmixed with pleasure, for it gave to him, as 
well as to the members of the Board who were more directly attacked, 
an opportunity, which they were not likely to neglect, of making a 
crushing rejoinder. The minute of the Governor-General has been 
published by Sir Charles Napier himself, but I am not aware that 
the reply of the Board has ever received equal publicity. It has 
been preserved among Lord Lawrence's private papers, and I gather, 
from internal evidence as well as from hints dropped here and there 
in his letters, that it is his own handiwork throughout It is a masterly 
State document, studiously moderate in tone, as indeed the conscious- 
ness of a vast reserve of strength in its writer well enabled it to be, 
and full of interest. Want of space alone prevents my reproducing 
it in fu 11. To quote the whole of its seventy-six paragraphs would 
extend this biography beyond reasonable limits, and the other alter- 
native of quoting only the more salient passages of a paper, each 
paragraph of which depends for its strength on its close connection 
with what has gone before and with what follows, seems to me to be 
doubly objectionable. Such a document, if it is to be judged at all, 
must be judged as a whole ; and it may perhaps be hoped that this 
and other of Lord Lawrence's weightier State papers, whose length 
precludes them from more than a passing notice in this biography, 
may some day see the light in a separate volume. Events move 
quickly even in the East, and change of circumstances may already 
have caused many of Lord Lawrence's views to seem out of date, 
but the essential principles underlying all that he wrote and thought 
and did will be as true a hundred years hence as they are to-day ; 
and from these principles, as from a mine of wealth, many generations 
of Indian statesmen may gather treasures new and old, learning alike 
what is the practical ideal at which Indian rulers ought to aim, and 
what are the dangers which it most behoves them to avoid. 

It was well for the peace of the official world in India that neither 
of the documents of which I have been speaking saw the light till 
after December 1849 \ f° r > i n tnat month, the august antagonists 
were all thrown together at Lahore. It was one of the earliest visits 
which the Governor- General had paid to the capital of the province 
he had annexed. Henry Lawrence hurried back from Kashmere to 
be in time to receive him there, and Sir Charles Napier arrived, as I 


have already stated, in the course of his military tour of inspection. 
The presence of a common foe drew Lord Dalhousie and Henry 
Lawrence more closely together than might otherwise have been the 
case, and Sir Charles Napier appears to have occupied most of his 
time in ridiculing the fortifications of Lahore proposed by the Board, 
and in proposing counter-fortifications of his own. It was an amuse- 
ment which Henry Lawrence afterwards retorted on him, and, as it 
seems, with reason on his side, in the pages of the ' Calcutta Review ' 
(January 1854). The pressing questions of the frontier force and of 
the cantonments, even those of the capital itself, still remained un- 
settled. The oracle was dumb, and, till it could be induced to speak, 
all other arrangements were necessarily suspended. 

How the matter ended I am able to relate on the authority of an 
eye-witness and a. principal actor in it. The story has never, I 
believe, been told till now, and it is highly characteristic of Sir 
Charles Napier. 

One day, towards the end of his stay in Lahore, the three mem- 
bers of the Board and Montgomery, who was then Commissioner of 
the Lahore division, happened to be taking their early morning ride 
together, when, in the distance, they saw the Commander-in-Chief 
and his Staff similarly employed. ' Let us go straight up to him/ 
said Henry to John Lawrence, ' and see if we cannot manage to get 
an answer out of him at last about the cantonments for Lahore/ 
They did so. 'You want to know where the cantonments are to be r 
do you ? ' said Sir Charles ; ' follow me then ; ' and, as he spoke, he 
dug his spurs into his horse and rode off as hard as he could go, neck 
or nothing, across country, some three or four miles. His Staff 
followed him as best they could, and Henry Lawrence, John Lawrence, 
Mansel, and Montgomery, who were probably not so well mounted, 
followed, as they too best could, behind. It was a regular John 
Gilpin ride, composed not of post-boys, and of ' six gentlemen upon 
the road,' crying ' Stop thief ! ' but of the most august personages, 
civil and military, in the Punjab. At last, the old General reined in 
his horse in the middle of the plain, to all appearance at simple hap- 
hazard, and when the last of the long pursuit came up, he cried out 
from the midst of smoking steeds and breathless riders, ' You asked 
me where the cantonments are to be ; they are to be here.' As ill 
luck would have it, he had pitched on a bit of ground which was 
particularly marshy and pestilential. But the word was spoken, and 
it was only by a stretch of authority that the Engineers employed to 


construct the cantonments managed to draw them back a little from 
a rather more to a rather less unhealthy spot. Such was the origin 
of the famous cantonments of Mean Meer ! 

This matter settled, Sir Charles was able to pursue his military 
tour. Accompanied by John Lawrence, he paid a visit to jummoo 
and had an interview with Golab Sing. ' The Commander-in-Chief 
was kind and courteous,' says his companion, while the redoubtable 
Maharaja was, ' if possible, more civil and amiable than ever.' Sir 
Charles moved onwards, as he delighted to reflect, over the ground 
which had been traversed by Alexander the Great, to Wuzeerabad, 
Jhelum, Rawul Pindi, and Peshawur. At Wuzeerabad, he obtained 
fresh evidence, as he thought, of the mutinous disposition of the 
Sepoys, and, at Peshawur, he struck up a considerable friendship with 
George Lawrence, the officer in charge. ' A right good fellow,' Sir 
Charles calls him, Lawrence though he was, and guilty though he had 
also been of the unpardonable offence of ' trying the advising scheme ' 
with him. Some small military operations were just then in progress 
against the Afridis of the famous Kohat pass. These wild moun- 
taineers had ceded to us the right of making a road through their 
country on payment of a stipulated sum ; they had taken the money, 
and then, after their fashion, had fallen by night on the detachment 
of sappers and miners who were employed in the work, had cut the 
ropes of the tent in which the wearied men lay sleeping, and, before 
they could disengage themselves, had stabbed them all to death. Sir 
Charles joined in the operations, which, inconsiderable enough in 
themselves, are only memorable for the war of words which sprung 
up respecting them as soon as the sword was sheathed ; the Com- 
mander-in-Chief asserting that, but for him, the two regiments 
employed would have been annihilated by the folly of the Board, and 
the Board retorting that there had been no serious fighting at all, and 
that Sir Charles had been escorted back in safety to Peshawur by 
Coke and Pollock, rather than they by Sir Charles. In any case, it 
was the last time that the grand old soldier was under fire, and during 
his military tour, tempestuous as it was, he managed to confer at 
least two benefits on the country. He cut down, for the time, the 
extravagant retinue which had usually accompanied the Commander- 
in-Chief when he was on the march, and which had often preyed, 
like a swarm of locusts, on the districts through which it had advanced. 
And, secondly, he succeeded in inducing Lord Dalhousie to lessen 
the danger of combination among the Sepoys, by enlisting some 


Ghoorkas along with them. ' Like Brennus,' as he said himself, ' he 
threw the sword of those redoubtable little warriors into the scale ; : 
and the experiment, in spite of the misgivings of Lord Dalhousie 
and Henry Lawrence, has been abundantly justified by its success. 
In whatever part of our Empire the Ghoorkas have been called upon 
to draw the sword in our defence, they have done us excellent service. 

During the absence of Lord Dalhousie at sea, Sir Charles Napier, 
acting as if he were Governor-General, took upon himself to suspend 
a Government order relating to the pay of the troops. It was an 
outrageous usurpation of authority, which was followed by a severe 
rebuke from the Governor-General on his return, by the immediate 
resignation of Sir Charles, and by the acceptance of that resignation 
by the Duke of Wellington, who had urged him to go out to India, 
but who now, without hesitation, pronounced him to be in the wrong. 
So passed from India the grand old veteran. His sun set, as indeed 
it had shone for many a long day, in the midst of a stormy sea, and 
the final outpouring of his wrath in his posthumous publication, kept 
up the after-swell for years after his turbulent spirit had been laid to 
rest in the grave. 

A few extracts from John Lawrence's letters written during this 
period will throw light on his personal relations to the two chief 
antagonists, on the views he took of the most pressing questions of 
the day, on his relations to his subordinates, and on the multifarious 
duties which fell, in sickness and in health alike, on his own willing 
shoulders. Here is his view of the frontier-force question, a view 
different from that of his brother and from that which ultimately pre- 
vailed : — 

To Lord Dalhousie. 

December 18, 1849. 

The Commander-in-Chief is still here, and no one knows when he 
will start. He has not answered my brother's note about the frontier, 
and the Irregulars. I have thought a good deal about the matter since 
I saw your Lordship, and I confess that, on the whole, I would prefer 
that the Commander-in-Chief kept the frontier himself. I think my 
brother's arrangement a good one, and perfectly feasible, if carried out as 
a whole ; but I fear that if we have to do the work, we shall have but a 
portion of what he asks for. I do not covet military honour ; indeed, I 
rather shrink from it. Every civil and political officer who has to meddle 
in such matters does it with a rope round his neck. The honour and 
profit belong to the military ; the disgrace and damage to the political. 
Irregulars are, I believe, better adapted for all partisan warfare than 


Regulars ; but I believe in my heart that if the Irregulars kept the border 
under us, we should not be backed up by many officers with the Regulars 
as we ought to be, and as will be essentially necessary. I should like to 
see the military do their work, and the civil officers theirs. The frontier 
is the post of danger, and therefore the post of honour, and it seems to be 
an anomaly giving it to us. We have now 54,000 Regular and Irregular 
troops in the Punjab, and shall have little short of 20,000 of the new 
levies. This seems to me an excessive number for such a country. 

And again, January 3, 1850 : — 

The way the Commander-in Chief is distributing the troops, or rather 
leaving them, seems as if he would wish to have a row, that he might step 
in and have the glory of quelling it. He says the civil government neces- 
sitates the presence of so many troops, and yet he masses them with 
reference to the Afghans and Golab Sing ! Your Lordship is astounded 
at our request for more civil corps. With a different distribution of the 
regular army such would not be required, and that, too, without employ- 
ing them on civil duty. Six thousand infantry and 2,500 cavalry would 
then be abundance, I should say. Your Lordship is aware of my views 
as regards the protection of the frontier. One of the great objections to 
the civil officers guarding it, seems to me to arise from the circumstance 
that it takes them too much from their legitimate duties. They have not 
time to be both soldiers and civilians, even if they had the genius and 
the knowledge, and the consequence will be that the latter duties will be 

The following passage is interesting, chiefly, as showing that the 
jagheerdars of the Punjab did not get quite such hard measure from 
Lord Dalhousie as is usually supposed : — 

The arrangements regarding jagheers, as lately received from your 
Lordship, have given much satisfaction, and have exceeded all expecta- 
tion. A Sikh Sirdar remarked to me that they had got more than 
Runjeet Sing ever would have given them, and that too free of all service. 
He remarked that when Hurri Sing, the bravest Sikh Sirdar, was killed 
fighting against the Afghans, Runjeet Sing actually confined his wives 
till they gave up his wealth ! The customs abolition will also, I am satis- 
fied, be hailed with great satisfaction, especially, by the mass of the people, 
whose material interests will be immediately improved by the change. 
We now only want our canals to change the face of the country. If your 
Lordship had a doubt on the point, your trip to Mooltan will, I think, 
have removed it. Robert Napier is here at work. Poor fellow ! he has 
just lost his wife. 

To Lieutenant James, who had served four years in Scinde, the 


greater part of them in civil employ, and was hereafter to be one of 
John Lawrence's ablest subordinates in the Punjab, he writes two 
long letters asking for full particulars of the Scinde administration. 
For he thought it advisable, while defending himself from the attacks 
of Sir Charles Napier, to carry the war into the enemy's country. I 
quote some extracts, partly, as showing his insatiable appetite for 
minute detail, and the care he took to find out what a man was worth 
before he invited him into the Punjab ; partly, as indicating the spirit 
in which he approached the Scinde question, anxious to give full credit 
to what was good and to make allowance for what was bad in his 
opponent's rule : — 

I want you to let me know what kind of officer Captain Fleming, in 
Scinde, is ? Is he an able civil officer ? Does he understand revenue 
matters properly? Is he a man for Batai, and farms or assessments 
with the village community ? Kindly answer these queries, and also say 
if he is strong in mind and body— that is, can he, and will he, work 

I wish you would give me some idea of the Scinde system past and 
present — that is, under Sir Charles Napier and under Pringle ; particu- 
larly under the former. He is a first-rate soldier and a man of great 
capacity generally. But I cannot understand how he could have man- 
aged the civil details. He knew nothing of the language, the customs, or 
the habits of the people ; of revenue customs or police arrangements, 
though the latter depends more on good sense. Brown, his secretary, I 
knew well ; he was a fine fellow, but was certainly not cut out for a secre- 
tary. Then his district officers must, in the first instance, have had no 
civil training. I confess, when I think of all this I feel surprised, not at 
the alleged defects in the system, but that anything worthy of being called 
a system was carried out. 

I think I have heard that all the land-tax was collected in grain, not 
at a fixed quota for each village, but by Batai (division of the crop) ; but 
that lately they have begun to introduce a three years' settlement. Is 
this the case ? If so, up to what year did the grain system continue ? 
what did you do with it all? Did it not work ill? Were not Government 
and the people both plundered, particularly the former ? Customs— what 
customs did you collect? Import or export only, or transit also? Had 
you any town duties ? 

Police system — briefly describe it. Judicial — you had assistant district 
officers ; and the Governor— who was the executive, the district officer or 
the assistant ?— that is, did the latter carry out all details and the district 
officer act as a kind of judge, and hear appeals? as is the case in Madras, 
I believe ; or was it, like our Bengal system, the district officer being the 


responsibile executive, while the assistants were his aids? In this case, 
who heard appeals ? If the Governor did, he must have had an English 
translation of every one sent up. How could you afford time for this? 
Did the Governor ever hold courts himself? If so, what trials did he 
hear? Cases that go to our commissioners, how disposed of? 

Finance — what do you consider was the bond-fide revenue of Scinde ? 
What its civil expenses, including police corps ? I do not expect exact 
amounts ; an approximation will suffice. If the revenue was forty lacs, 
for instance, was the civil expenditure one-half, a third, or a quarter ? 
Kindly give me a reply to this letter the first leisure half-hour. 

A very long ' half-hour's work ' was thus cut out for James, but 
his answer came within ten days — that is, pretty nearly by return of 
post, and called forth another torrent of queries and suggestions from 
John Lawrence. I extract from them the following only : — 

I have heard something of the three collectors and their discussions. 
What a system for such a man as Sir Charles to advocate ! Judicial — 
you flogged and fined up to 500 rupees without record or power of appeal. 
I fear some of your men must have done much harm. There was a Mr. 

under me in the Jullundur who had been in Scinde, and I saw some 

terrible cases of oppression by him in this way, to which I speedily put a 
stop. ... I think a good article on Scinde, written in a fair and liberal 
spirit, entering into details fully, pointing out its merits and demerits 
truthfully, would be read with great interest and be very acceptable, par- 
ticularly just now. 

John Lawrence's formal answer to Sir Charles Napier's attack 
appears to have been finished towards the end of March, and, writing 
to Lord Dalhousie on the 31st, he speaks thus of it : — 

I hope your Lordship will approve of our answer to Sir Charles 
Napier's paper. We might have said a good deal more, but were anxious 
to be as amiable as possible. A defensive fight is usually a losing one, 
in politics as in war ; the assailant has many advantages. He has the 
immense one of a great name. I believe he did in Scinde wonderfully 
well ; perhaps as well, if not better, than anyone under similar difficulties 
could have done. But to suppose that a man ignorant of the manners, 
customs, habits, and language of a people, with untrained men under him, 
could really have governed a country as he thinks he did Scinde, seems 
to me an impossibility. He has always had one great advantage, namely, 
that he tells his own story. A man may make a good many mistakes, 
and still be a better ruler than an Ameer of Scinde. 

His remarks upon the Afridi troubles bring forcibly before us 

304 • LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. 1849-52 

some of the difficulties in dealing with such barbarous tribes — diffi- 
culties which his own wise administration and that of his successors 
have progressively tended to diminish, though they cannot be said to 
be finally settled even now. They show also that he was not back- 
ward to advocate offensive measures against the border tribes where 
they were necessary. 

The present state of Kohat is far from satisfactory. I much fear that 
nothing we can do will bring the Afridis to their senses ; but another ex- 
pedition may do so, if made with deliberation and with a sufficient force. 
The Commander-in-Chief, who declared on his first arrival at Peshawur 
that, were he not tied hand and foot, he would, within a week, be on his 
way to Kabul, is now for peace, for treaties and payments. If peace and 
security were, even probably, to be obtained in this way, it would be well 
worth the trial. But your Lordship may depend on it that neither Scindis 
nor Afghans are thus to be managed. You must thrash them soundly, 
first, before they will respect you. A little money judiciously expended 
among the heads of clans would then prove useful. But there are many 
drawbacks to the paying system. The very fact that an influential man 
receives our pay tends to lessen his influence. It is very difficult to know 
whom to pay, for power and influence are continually changing hands. 
The more we expend, the more we are expected to give. Lord Auckland 
spent lacs of rupees in this way at Herat, Kabul, and in the Khyber, and 
all to little or no purpose. It is certainly a difficult thing for a 'political' 
to advocate offensive measures when the Commander-in-Chief is for peace ; 
but I much fear that they are necessary. We cannot exasperate the 
Afridis more than we have done, whereas, by punishing them well, we 
may make them fear us, which now they do not do. I take the liberty of 
enclosing a letter I received from Sir Colin Campbell. It gives his views 
of the Afridis, and the comparative value of the new irregular corps and 
our own native infantry. I am myself quite satisfied of the superiority 
of the former, especially for all hill work. Our Oudh men are not 
equal, man to man, to the people of this country, and both parties 
know it. 

About this time, John Lawrence was summoned by Lord Dal- 
housie to Simla, and his reply, May 1, 1850, shows something of the 
difficulties with which he was, even then, struggling at Lahore : — 

I shall be very happy to come up to Simla and wait on your Lordship, 
and I am quite sure that if I could stay there for a little time it would do 
me good. But the work here is so heavy, and I have so little hope of its 
being carried on according to my own views, that I think it will be my 
duty to stay as short a time as possible. Since the division of labour 
we have all, I think, worked more satisfactorily; but there are many 


questions on which each man wishes to carry out his own views, and in 
such cases, mine, in my absence, would, necessarily, not be thought of. 
I shall arrange to work my own department while away, and where this 
is not to be done, leave returns against the time when I come back. I 
propose leaving this on Wednesday morning, and I hope to get up to 
Simla by Saturday. I trust that this delay will not be objected to by 
your Lordship. ... I was glad to see in the ' Overland' yesterday that 
Sir Robert Peel had spoken so handsomely of the Civil Service at the 
great dinner to Lord Gough. It is a satisfaction to see that, in England, 
some merit may be attached to anything besides a red coat. 

The visit to Simla was paid. It only lasted a fortnight, and a 
great amount of work was done during it. But the change did John 
Lawrence good, and helped him through a long and trying summer. 
Speaking of an officer who was anxious to get a political charge on 
the frontier, and also to be made a magistrate, as he had been in 
Scinde, he says to Lord Dalhousie on July 3 : — 

He is a fine soldier, but not at all cut out, I should say, for civil work, 
nor would such a place as he wishes ever answer. No man can serve 
two masters. Moreover, in such arrangements there is this inherent 
evil, that it gives a soldier great facilities for getting up a disturbance, if 
so inclined. Anything like an imperium in imperio is also bad, and sure 
to bring on a collision between the district officer and such roving 
magistrates. Our officers when they have nothing else to say against a 
civil officer are sometimes inclined to sneer at his youth. Youth, in 
itself, is no fault in an executive officer. If a man knows his work, and 
has been properly trained, it is an advantage in a country like India, 
where indolence and apathy are the prevailing defects. We daily see 
instances where age and experience do not go together. When both 
are inexperienced, I would infinitely prefer a young to an old man ; for 
the former is more apt to learn, while the latter is wedded to preconceived 

A passage in a letter of July 22 gives some slight idea of the 
inordinate pressure under which every officer, high and low, in the 
Punjab, was expected, during these eventful years, to work and live. 
The Lawrences had gone, as boys, to a school at which there were 
no holidays, and the Punjab officers were, it seems, so far as their 
masters could prevent it, to have none either ; at least, not till they 
were fairly abreast of their work, a consummation which, however 
devoutly to be wished, seemed each month to become more and 
more remote, as new fields of enterprise opened out before them.. 
It was expedient that a few white men should suffer, and, if need be> 

vol. 1. x 


die for the dusky millions of the Punjab. On this principle John 
Lawrence acted himself, and, on this, he expected everyone else who 
came within his sphere, if he would keep well with him, to act also. 
Lord Dalhousie, without making any definite request on the subject, 
had mentioned to John Lawrence the wish of Lord W. Hay, a near 
relative of his and an officer employed under the Board, to get some 

If Lord W. Hay (replied John Lawrence) is left to our mercies, we 
must, in duty bound, refuse him leave. We have agreed not to recom- 
mend any leave unless when men are sick. There is still much to do, 
and will be so for the next two years. Every day is of value, and the 
best officer cannot work too hard or too long for the public interest. 
We have a number of men away on sick certificate, and almost every 
week brings in similar applications, and will, I fear, continue to do so 
until October. If the rains prove a failure, which I much fear they will, 
our hands will be full to overflowing. It will take all the metal of our 
Punjab executive to keep the work down. 

What wonder that, under such circumstances, the Punjab head 
came to be a proverbial expression for the break- down which was the 
result of over- work, and which sent so many of the Punjab officers, 
sorely against the will of their chiefs, to recruit exhausted nature for 
a month or two in the delicious sanataria of Murri or Chumba or 
Simla ? 

The very slight changes of air or scene which John Lawrence 
allowed himself to take were only justified to his mind by the amount 
of work which he managed to combine with them, and he was always 
ready to stay at his desk if he thought his brother could go instead 
and do the locomotive work, which suited him better. For example, 
it had been long since arranged that John Lawrence should accom- 
pany Lord Dalhousie in a tour in the north-west of the Punjab. He 
looked forward to the treat with real pleasure. But a passage in a 
letter of September 15 shows how far he was from wishing in any 
way to oust or take precedence of his brother : — 

Nothing I should like better than to run along the frontier ; but my 
brother wishes to go there also, particularly if we act against the Afridis ; 
and as his services will be in every way more useful and carry more 
weight than mine in public opinion, I will willingly withdraw my request 
to accompany your Lordship to the frontier. I am very sorry to say 
that more of our officers are getting ill. Major Lake and Hercules Scott 
are both ailing, and may both have to go home. In them, George 


Campbell, and Cust, we lose some of our best civil officers, with none to 
replace them of equal merit. I feel sometimes quite desperate when 
looking forward. 

It was in this year also that the Punjab lost the services of George, 
the eldest of the three distinguished Lawrence brothers. Previous to 
the annexation of the country, he had, at the head of 8,000 Sikh 
troops, subject to the Durbar, held, with the greatest credit to himself 
and advantage to the district, the important frontier post of Peshawur, 
and there, by his fearlessness, his chivalry, his generosity, his moral 
•courage, had acquired that influence over the Sikhs which, when he 
fell into their hands during the second Sikh war, led them to treat 
him throughout as their honoured guest and friend rather than as 
their prisoner. His services had been appreciated alike by the highest 
•civil and military authorities— by Lord Hardinge and by Lord Dal- 
housie, as well as by Sir Charles Napier. ' He is a right good soldier,' 
said the last named hard-to-please judge of military merit, ' and a 
right good fellow, and my opinion of him is high.' In April of this 
year he had been attacked by fever, and, on his partial recovery, he 
was offered the post of Political Agent at Mey war in Rajpootana. ' I 
regard,' said Lord Dalhousie, ' your claims to the post as superior to 
any of those which have been preferred, and I feel sure that the office 
is one which will be satisfactory to yourself, and that you will fill it to 
the satisfaction of the Government. I shall be heartily sorry to lose 
you from the Punjab, where you have played your part so much to 
my satisfaction, as well in peace as in war.' Before long, George 
Lawrence was to be followed by his brother Henry ; and when, on 
March 3, 1857, Henry was called away to become Chief Commis- 
sioner of Oude, George succeeded to his post of Chief Agent for the 
Governor- General in Rajpootana ; and, during the following eventful 
months, when the power of England in India was being shaken to its 
base in many of the British provinces, it should be mentioned that 
not one of the nineteen independent states of Rajpootana wavered in 
its good feeling towards the paramount power. 

On the much-disputed question of the frontier force, which was, 
at length, nearing its solution, and not in the way in which John 
Lawrence then advocated, I am induced to quote one other letter, 
because, though it travels over some old ground, it contains remarks 
on the public opinion of India, which are as true now as on the day 
on which they were written, and because of the vivid portraiture 


it gives, in very few words, of himself and his colleagues on the 
Board : — 

The main question is as to the ten Punjab corps being made over to> 
the Commander-in-Chief, or left with the Board for the defence of the 
country on the right bank of the Indus, south of Peshawur. While 
admitting to the full the advantages which are to be derived from the 
control of the Punjab corps, and the defence of this frontier being vested 
in us, I have always shrunk from advocating the measure from the diffi- 
culties I felt we should have to encounter. No doubt, with a good 
Brigadier, one in whom we had confidence, and who would be prepared 
to carry out our views, these difficulties would be lessened. Still they seem 
to me to be considerable. Some of them are those which I have per- 
sonally experienced, and which no one who has lived and mixed with 
military men can fail to admit. Public opinion is essentially military in 
India. Military views, feelings, and interests are therefore paramount. 
If matters go well, the credit will rest with the military ; if they go wrong,, 
the blame is thrown on the civil power. The views of the Commander- 
in-Chief are essentially those of his cloth, perhaps a good deal exagge- 
rated, but still their views. There is no security that the officer com- 
manding in the field at any crisis may not be utterly incapable ; there 
is every possibility that, at times, he will be so, but the effects of his 
incapacity will be laid at the door of the civil administration. This is in 
the nature of things. Probably, if a soldier, I myself should join in the 
outcry. India has produced few abler or better men than Sir William 
Macnaghten. Had his advice been followed, the Kabul insurrection 
would have ended very differently. Yet, to this day his memory is 
maligned, and he is considered the cause of all the misfortunes which 
occurred. There are a thousand ways in which the military can thwart 
the civil officers, which it would be difficult to remedy and unwise to 
complain of. I say this in no bitterness, for, on the whole, I have been 
kindly dealt with ; but I have often felt that my honour and reputation 
were in the hands of a querulous old man. 

The frontier is a post of danger ; it is therefore one of honour, and 
the military as a body will be ready to resent its being entrusted to us. 
They may acquiesce so long as all is quiet, but if anything goes wrong 
the feeling will be shown. Independently of these facts, the constitution 
of the Board is unfavourable to such a charge. We are told that in the 
multitude of counsellors there is safety ; but assuredly there is not much 
energy. Each man may take a different view of the question, and 
between conflicting opinions the time for action passes by. Promptitude 
and vigour, the very soul of military arrangements, will, I fear, be often 
wanting. If, therefore, your Lordship shall think fit to confide the 
defence of the frontier to the Board, I pray that one only of the members 
be invested with the duty. 


There is hardly a single subject on which the members thoroughly 
•concur. If they agree in theory, they differ in the mode of execution. 
My brother's temperament is very similar to my own, but we have been 
bred in two different schools. With a keener and higher order of 
intellect than mine, he is, from habit and ill health, unequal to systematic 
exertion. Mansel is contemplative and philosophic, but shrinks from 
■action. I am restless and impatient, thinking nothing done if aught is 
left undone, and chafe at delay. Such being the elements which compose 
our Board, I feel averse to our having charge of the frontier, which will 
require much order and system, joined to vigour and promptitude of 

1 beg that your Lordship will not attribute my remarks to want of 
zeal. I cannot serve the State nor your Lordship more truly than by 
frankly stating my views. If we are to have the frontier, I suggest it be 
entrusted to my brother. I believe he would like the charge, and, 
judging of him by myself, I should say he would prefer the whole 
responsibility to sharing it with his colleagues. 

In the spring of this year (1850) Henry Lawrence had set out on 
a prolonged visit to Kashmere. He was accompanied, during a part 
of it, by his wife and his daughter Honoria (now Mrs. Henry Hart), 
then an infant only six weeks old. Dr. Hathaway, who had been his 
Private Secretary, and was now surgeon to the civil station at Lahore, 
and Hodson, afterwards of Hodson's Horse, were also members of the 

There were elements of romantic interest about the journey which 
■exactly suited Henry Lawrence. The surpassing beauty of the 
scenery of Kashmere is now well known. But, at that time, hardly 
any Europeans had set foot in the country. .It was a native state 
which had been saved from annexation, in part at least, by Henry 
Lawrence's own chivalrous exertions, and upon its throne sat the 
astute Golab Singh, whose misdeeds Henry Lawrence, as his patron, 
had been driven, by a somewhat cruel destiny, and with a strange 
conflict of feelings, now to condemn, and now, again, to extenuate and 
defend. The tour was prolonged farther northward still to Iskardo 
and Ladak, and the elements of romance seemed to multiply as the 
travellers advanced farther and farther into the region of the unknown. 
■*Five times over,' as Henry Lawrence writes exultingly to his brother 
George, he had been 'above 14,000 feet high,' he had given a dinner 
to some three hundred natives of those remote latitudes who traded 
with Yarkand — probably the most original and picturesque as well as 
the most costly and most difficult entertainment which even he, in 

3 jo LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. 1849-52 

his boundless hospitality, had ever given — and he was looking forward 
to one on a still larger scale, which he was about to give to a mixed 
party of merchants and soldiers at Iskardo. 

The adventurous and daring as well as the unscrupulous charac- 
ter of Hodson came out repeatedly during the journey. On one 
occasion, he climbed, at the imminent peril of his life, a snowy peak 
resembling that of the Matterhorn, on which, as Henry Lawrence 
afterwards remarked, ' none but a Hodson or an eagle would have 
thought of setting foot.' His fate reserved him for many a deed of 
higher daring still, but for a less happy end. 

Another unpleasant element in the expedition was the correspon- 
dence with Lord Dalhousie which had preceded it. Henry had applied 
for leave of absence during the rainy season, in the hope that he might 
get the better of his attacks of fever, which had been more than 
usually severe ; and Lord Dalhousie had demurred to the proposal 
on the ground that his habitual absence from Lahore for nearly half 
the year was incompatible with his office and unfair to his colleagues, 
who would not be able to stir from the capital till he returned. ' Of 
Mr. Mansel's habits I know nothing, but it is impossible that, after 
the active movements of your brother's life for so many years, im- 
prisonment in one place can be otherwise than bad for him. 
Previous to your departure, therefore, before the rains, I would 
request that he would come up to Simla and meet me there.' Lord 
Dalhousie's consent was given grudgingly, and its tone may well have 
been resented by a man who was so unsparing of himself as Henry 
Lawrence. But his forebodings as to the danger to the younger 
brother's health proved true. The strain of unintermittent work for 
nearly ten years had begun to tell even on John Lawrence's iron 
constitution. The rains, which Henry had wished to avoid, ceased 
early, and then a terribly unhealthy season set in. The old canton- 
ments at Anarkulli were devastated by disease, and Sir Charles 
Napier's new ones at Mean Meer fared even worse. At Wuzeerabad, 
Inglis declared that ' his whole office was prostrate,' and the natives 
throughout the Punjab suffered more even than the Europeans. 

John Lawrence was one of the last to succumb. He had worked 
hard the whole summer through, and now, early in October, his turn 
came. It was a sharp attack of remittent fever. The symptoms- 
rapidly developed ; intense pain in the head and very high fever, 
followed by sickness and delirium. Those about him had begun to 
fear the worst, but a cold douche extemporised by Dr. Hathaway had 

1 849-52 HENR V A ND JOHN LA WRENCE. 3 1 1 

a magical effect. The fever and delirium disappeared almost instan- 
taneously. He dropped off into a quiet sleep, and woke up out of 
danger. As is often the case with very strong men when attacked by 
illness, his strength had gone all at once, and it now returned almost 
as rapidly ; and, by the 16th of the month, the day originally fixed, 
he was able to start for his long-projected tour with the Governor- 
General. Lord Dalhousie had peremptorily overruled his generous 
wish that his brother should go in his stead. 'I shall be delighted,' 
he wrote on September 16, 'to see you at Roopur, but I want also 
to have you with me in the latter part of the march. If your brother 
returns in October, he can accompany me to meet Golab at Wuzeer- 
abad. After that, he must take his turn at Lahore. I wish for your 
presence with me.' Lord Dalhousie's wish was equivalent to a com- 
mand, and, for the next six months, except during short intervals, 
when he ran down to Lahore, John Lawrence was to be found in the 
locomotive camp of the Governor-General, who had come to the 
Punjab with the intention of seeing as much as he possibly could. 

What Lord Dalhousie thought of John Lawrence's services to the 
State, and what he felt towards him personally, is clear from the 
following letter, written on October 21 — soon, that is, after he heard 
of his sudden and dangerous illness : — 

I have not plagued you with any letter since I heard of your illness 
I need not say how deeply and truly I grieved to learn the severe attack 
you have suffered, and how anxious I shall be to learn again that you are 
improving during your march, and that you are not foolishly impeding 
your recovery by again returning to work. I am terrified at the thought 
of your being compelled to give up work and go home for a time, and I 
plead with you to spare yourself for a time as earnestly as I would plead 
to save my own right hand. Two of you have been working hard enough, 
Heaven knows, for the third ; let the other two now take their turn of 
working for you. Keep enough work in your hands to employ you, but 
don't take so much as to burden you. 

It is little to be wondered at that the Governor-General, when he 
realised the full danger to which his Lieutenant had been exposed, 
insisted that he should spend the next hot season, not in the fever- 
stricken furnace of Lahore, but amidst the cool breezes of Simla. 
And it may also be added, by way of anticipation, that it was the 
readiness of resource shown by Dr. Hathaway at the critical moment, 
as well as his aptitude for work, tested during a long and intimate 
acquaintance with him in India, which, fourteen years later, served to 


recommend him for the post of Private Secretary to the man who had 
then just been called, by universal acclamation, to the highest post 
in the Indian Empire, that of Viceroy and Governor-General. 

John Lawrence left Lahore with his wife, as I have mentioned, 
on October 16, just after his brother's return. Taking Umritsur 
and Jullundur on his way, and managing to do an infinity of work at 
each place, he joined the Governor- General, about the beginning of 
November, at Roopur, a small place on the Sutlej. The Governor- 
General's camp was a very large one. Besides his own retinue, it was 
attended by the principal officers of the district in which, from time to 
time, it happened to be, and John Lawrence thus found ample oppor- 
tunities for consultation, alike with his chief and with his subordinates, 
on the pressing questions of the hour, as well as on the future pros- 
pects, of the country. I am unable to find in the papers entrusted to 
me any details of the places visited or of the work done during the 
next six months. There is a total absence of letters from October 
1850 to November 1851 ; and it is natural that it should be so. 
Being so much with the Governor-General, John Lawrence had no 
need to write to Lord Dalhousie, or Lord Dalhousie to him. Henry 
Lawrence was at Lahore, and on him, therefore, naturally devolved 
the laborious correspondence — which, till now, had fallen chiefly on 
his brother— with the Commissioners, Deputy- Commissioners, and 
Assistant-Commissioners, who were coming and going, hither and 
thither to their various stations, like the figures in a transformation 
scene, or the pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope. And, once more, it 
should be remarked that John Lawrence had no private secretary, 
and that the copying of the letters to which this biography will, for 
some years to come, owe so much, was chiefly the work of his wife, 
who was only with him at intervals during this particular tour. 

The arrangements for the Governor- General's march had formed 
the subject of frequent communication between John Lawrence and 
Lord Dalhousie for months past ; and, from their letters, I gather that 
the programme consisted of a leisurely progress through the northern 
districts of the Punjab ; of a prolonged stay at Lahore, ' with more 
opportunities,' remarks Lord Dalhousie, evidently much to his satis- 
faction, 'for business and less occasion for ceremonies than in the 
preceding year ; ' of visits to Wuzeerabad and Rawul Pindi ; of a 
march thence by a newly constructed and difficult road to Kalabagh 
on the other side of the Indus, where the Governor-General intended, if 
possible, to alter for the better the arrangements made by the Board for 


the salt-duties, ' the one slip,' according to him, ' which the> T had made 
at all ; ' finally, of a trip down the Indus in a steamboat to Dera Ismael 
Khan, where he wished to hold a Durbar of the hill chiefs of the 
Derajat. His plan was to return thence, if the disposition of the hill 
tribes allowed it, through the Derajat to Kohat and Peshawur ; thence 
to travel over the line marked out for the Grand Trunk Road, between 
it and Attock ; and, last of all, to reach Simla by a circuitous route 
through Huzara and Kashmere. This was an extensive programme, 
and the less ambitious parts of it appear to have been carried out. 
]]ut the delicate and difficult passage through Kashmere was given up, 
owing to the opposition offered to it by the prudence of the Lawrence 
brothers. John Lawrence returned to Lahore for Christmas, while 
the Governor-General remained to finish his tour beyond the Indus. 
The only interruption to the routine work of the following spring 
{1S51) to which reference need be made here, was the visit of John 
Lawrence to Peshawur, where he spent a busy fortnight in examining 
the official records and criminal returns ; in inspecting the fort, the 
jail, the cantonments, and the city ; in making excursions with the 
Governor-General to Barra and Jumrood ; and in conversing freely, as 
his manner was, with people of every grade and of all kinds of views. 
He found that that important position was not then — probably it is 
not even now — in an altogether satisfactory condition. The valley 
was held by a garrison of 10,000 Regulars ; a force which it has 
never yet, I believe, been found practicable seriously to reduce. The 
physical characteristics of the country, intersected as it is by two large 
rivers and numerous hill-torrents, by deep ravines and rugged ridges, 
and surrounded on every side by mountains which afford a ready 
refuge to miscreants of all descriptions, marked it out as a den of 
murderers and marauders, which it was almost equally difficult for us 
to hold or to abandon. The Sikhs, who had preceded us in the occu- 
pation of the place and had called themselves, for a brief period, its 
masters, had never held a yard of country beyond the range of their 
military posts, and had never raised a rupee from either the high- 
landers or the lowlanders of the surrounding districts, except at the 
point of the sword. It was hardly to be wondered at, therefore, if, in 
spite of the moderation and justice of our rule, in spite of duties swept 
away, and lightened land-tax, in spite of the careful maintenance, 
in this part of our dominions at least, of the jagheers of the village, 
or district chiefs, so poor, so predatory, and so warlike a people had 
not been w r eaned from their immemorial habits. There were still 


the eternal mountains, which formed an all but impenetrable fastness 
whence the inhabitants could sally forth on the less warlike people 
of the plains, and which offered, in their turn, an equally safe retreat 
to any lowlander who, laden with the plunder, or red-handed with the 
blood, of the hated Feringhis, might wish to claim amongst them the- 
sacred right of the asylum. Accustomed as the natives were to redress 
their own wrongs, and utterly regardless of human life, we had found 
it impossible to disarm any portion of them. And thus the reign of 
violence, if it was ever to give way at all to the reign of law, could be 
expected to do so only by very slow degrees. Fifty-one cases ot 
murder or dangerous wounding had taken place, as John Lawrence 
found, in the two months and a-half which preceded his arrival, and 
it was under such circumstances that he drew up two elaborate 
documents on the defence and organisation of the Peshawur district, 
the suggestions of which have been acted upon ever since, and have 
gradually succeeded in weaning — as far as in a generation or two they 
could be expected to do so — the wild marauders of the neighbour- 
hood towards a more peaceful life. The levelling of the broken* 
ground around the cantonments, so as to sweep away the lurking- 
place of the robber or the assassin ; a vigorous system of police 
patrols both by night and day ; a chain of fortified posts in the interior 
as well as along the frontier of the country ; the strict limitations 
imposed on the wandering propensities of our officers and soldiers ; 
the taking away of their arms from merchants from the hills when, 
they reached our frontier stations, of course to be given back to them 
on their return ; the strict responsibility of heads of villages for crimes 
committed within them ; the occupation of Jumrood by Irregulars as 
the advanced picquet of the Peshawur force ; — these were some of 
the precautions first suggested by John Lawrence, and which have,, 
ever since, been more or less rigidly observed. 

In April, John Lawrence followed his wife and family to Simla, 
and, here, he and they had the ineffable happiness — hardly, I suppose, 
to be understood by anyone who has not experienced it himself, or 
who has not suffered from the Indian sun as John Lawrence had 
always done — of spending the first of some twenty summers which 
had passed since he came to India, among the hills. The long walks, 
the pleasant society, the lovely climate of that earthly paradise, the 
kindness of Lord and Lady Dalhousie, the hard work done under 
conditions which seemed to make it no work at all, altogether went 
to form an oasis in his Indian life, on which she who enjoyed and 


shared it with him can still, after thirty years have come and gone, 
look back with melancholy delight. But even here he was not to 
escape altogether from the effects of the deadly climate of Lahore. In 
September, he again broke down with a renewed attack of the fever of 
the preceding year, and the four doctors who attended him— Lord Dal- 
housie's physician among them— agreed that nothing but a return to- 
England would restore him to health. ' If I cannot go to India and live 
there, I will go and die there,' he had said, ten years before, as a newly 
married man with no definite employment in view, when the doctors 
warned him not again to attempt the Indian climate. And it was 
not likely now, when the interests of a vast province in so large a 
measure depended on him, that he would think differently. Nothing 
should induce him, he said, to go home till he had done the work 
which he had then in hand ; and, when once the fever had abated, 
he rallied so quickly that all thought of his return was given up, 
even by his doctors and his wife. 

Lord Dalhousie, however, was not so easily satisfied, and, in his 
anxiety to spare one whose services he valued ' as he did his own 
right hand,' he wrote to the Directors of the East India Company, 
asking to allow his lieutenant to go home on exceptionally favourable 
terms. The request was refused on public grounds, but the refusal 
was accompanied by expressions which showed a high appreciation 
of John Lawrence's services. I insert here a few lines from one of 
his letters on this subject to Lord Dalhousie, chiefly because of the 
light it throws on what were then his plans for the future : — 

I have made up my mind not to go home. It would, I think, be 
suicidal in me. at my age and with the claims which my children have on 
me, to do so. My health is very uncertain ; I do not think that I have 
more than three or four years of good honest work left in me. In May, 
1855, 1 shall have served my time, and be entitled to my annuity, and, by 
that time, I shall have saved a sufficiency for my own moderate wants 
and to bring up my children. Without making up my mind absolutely 
to retire at that period, I wish to be in a position to be able do so. If I 
go home now without pay, I shall come back to this country without the 
slightest chance of being able to retire as I propose, for I shall have to 
spend in my trip the best part of my savings. I am infinitely obliged for 
the kindness and consideration which led your Lordship to recommend 
the indulgence, and am gratified with the flattering manner in which it 
has been negatived. 

It is difficult, now that the writer's long and deedful life is over, 


to read without something akin to emotion the simple wishes and 
the humble prognostications of this letter ; and it is more difficult 
still, even at the risk of anticipating what might, perhaps, come more 
fitly at the close of this biography, not to take a rapid glance forward 
at the amount of work which was really in store for him at the time 
when he wrote. The man who thought he had ' not more than three 
or four years of good honest work left in him,' and could not go to 
England to recruit his health without spending the best part of his 
savings in the process, was to work on in the Punjab with increased 
responsibility and power, not merely for three or four, but for seven 
years, doing each day as much as most men do in a dozen days, and, 
during the last two years, facing an amount of anxiety, of difficulty, 
and of danger which, by itself, would have been enough to make or 
mar any lesser man. When he returned home after the Mutiny, 
broken down in health, he was to recruit himself, not by rest, but by 
serving for four years in the Indian Council, bringing his vast ex- 
perience and his sound judgment to bear on the difficult questions 
which had been raised by the transference of India from the Company 
to the Crown. At the end of that period of comparative repose, he 
was to return to India as Viceroy and Governor-General, and, for the 
full period of five years, was to work as hard and successfully as any 
Governor-General has ever worked. When he returned to England 
again, it was to descend at once from the most magnificent of Vice- 
royalties to the dull and thankless drudgery of the London School 
Board ; and that, not because he had any special knowledge or 
natural bent for the subject of popular education, but because he felt 
there was good work and hard work to be done upon it. And then, 
once more, when his health had finally broken down, when his sight 
was nearly gone, and when he seemed to have set his face towards the 
grave, he was to rouse himself again at the trumpet-call of duty, and, 
regardless of obloquy and of misconception of every kind, was to 
work hard to the very end against a policy which he thought to be 
unjust, and to be fraught with danger and disaster to the best interests 
of England and of India. If any life was ever dignified from first 
to last with that kind of dignity which nothing but labour — honest, 
unsparing, unselfish labour — can give, that life was John Lawrence's. 
By November, Lawrence returned to Lahore, visiting all the civil 
stations on the way, and bringing with him an infant son — Edward 
Hayes — who had Ipeen born, in June, at Simla. It was a lovely child, 
which had seemed from its very birth to call forth from beneath the 


rugged exterior of his father that vein of tenderness which those who 
knew him well knew was always there. A child, particularly a young 
one, seemed often able— as a notable incident which I shall relate at 
a subsequent period of his life will show— to calm John Lawrence 
when he was most ruffled, and to cheer him when he was most wearied 
with the anxieties and the vexations of his daily work. This babe 
had been delicate from its birth— so delicate, that its mother feared 
now to expose it to the rough camp life which formed a principal part 
of the winter's work in the Punjab. Accordingly, while the father 
was roaming about his province in tents, the mother stayed at home 

to tend it. 

But, howsoe'er it was, 
After a lingering, ere she was aware, 
Like a caged bird escaping suddenly, 
The little innocent soul flitted away. 

It was a crushing sorrow, and not to the mother alone. It was 
the first time that death had come into the Lawrence family. The 
strong man was broken down ; and to the astonishment of those that 
did not know him well — but only to those — he was seen weeping like 
a child, as he followed the body to the grave. It was not often that 
John Lawrence was seen to shed tears ; and I have thought it worth 
while, in the course of this biography, to specify the two or three 
occasions when he is known to have done so. But his tears were 
only the outward and intermittent signs of the perennial spring of 
tenderness which lay below ; of a tenderness which was, perhaps, 
more real because it made so little show, and certainly gave more 
encouragement and more support to those on whom it was habitually 
lavished, because it was felt to be the tenderness, not of a weakling, 
but of a strong, rough-hewn man. 

It was the first death. But it was not the first break in the family. 
For in the autumn of the year of annexation (1849), the inevitable 
severance, bitter almost as death, to which all Indian families must 
look forward, and that, too, at the time of life when the child most 
needs the parent, and the parent most misses the child, had taken 
place. The two eldest daughters had been sent off to England, under 
somewhat exceptional circumstances. It happened that Herbert 
Edwardes and John Nicholson were about to leave on furlough, and 
they volunteered to undertake a task, which not even such friends as 
the Lawrences would have ever thought of proposing to them — the 
trouble and responsibility of conveying the little girls to England. 


* It was considered, 1 says Lady Lawrence, ' somewhat strange to 
send two little girls away with only two young men as their escort, 
but they were dear and trusted friends ; and right nobly they ful- 
filled their trust, not minding the trouble and anxiety of little children, 
but tenderly caring for them all the way.' Their father accompanied 
them to Ferozepore, and there handed them over, with their ayah, to 
their kind escort, who conveyed them down the Indus to Bombay, 
and, thence, safely to England. And, assuredly, when we consider 
what young unmarried officers usually are like, and how utterly in- 
capable they would be, even if they had the will, of undertaking such 
a charge, we shall be disposed to regard this as not the least charac- 
teristic, or the least lovable, passage in the lives of the young hero of 
Mooltan, or of the afterwards still more distinguished hero of Delhi. 

During John Lawrence's sojourn at Simla in 1850, an important 
change had taken place in the personnel of the Board. I have already 
endeavoured to indicate the general characteristics of the third mem- 
ber of the triumvirate, and have pointed out how valuable must have 
been the makeweight which Mansel's evenly balanced and philosophic 
temperament offered to the more drastic and impetuous spirits which, 
for the time being, were linked to his. Both brothers appreciated 
highly his intellectual gifts, and regarded him with the most friendly 
feelings. But both looked upon him, also, as a drag upon the coach. 
They were always, or nearly always, for action ; he was always, or 
nearly always, for talking about it. In every question which was 
brought before him he saw, like other men of his turn of mind, at 
least three possible courses ; and the teriium quid on which he seemed 
inclined to settle, rather than ever actually did settle down at last, 
was generally one which did not suit precisely the views of either of 
his colleagues. When, as often happened, Henry Lawrence had one 
plan for the solution of a difficult problem, and John another, and they 
were both brought to Mansel for his deciding voice, he ' cushioned ' 
both of them ; that is to say, he put them into his pocket, and the 
question was shelved sine die. He would sometimes, as I have been 
told by an eye-witness, walk for an hour or two up and down the veran- 
dah in front of the Residency, arguing seriously against some project 
which Henry was pressing upon him with characteristic earnestness. 
At the end of the discussion, he would say quietly, ' Well, though I 
have been arguing thus with you, I have not been speaking my own 
views : I have only been showing you what might be said by John 
against your project ; ' and he would often do the same with John. 


This method of procedure was not exactly suited to the proclivities of 
either brother. John Lawrence was fond enough of discussion, pro- 
vided it were a preliminary to action, but Mansel's talk he knew well 
was apt to end in nothing else ; and Henry, who was of a hotter tem- 
perament, and much more intolerant of opposition, in the vexation 
of the moment would sometimes regard Mansel's disputations as not 
only injurious, but insulting. Neither of the brothers, it will be seen, 
would have altogether approved of the Socratic method of inquiry, 
and both would, at times, have been disposed to elbow that impracti- 
cable philosopher out of their way, as an impediment to energetic 
and immediate action. When, therefore, the Residency at Nagpore 
fell vacant, in November, 1850, a post for which both brothers thought 
Mansel better suited, they agreed in asking Lord Dalhousie to send 
him thither. Lord Dalhousie assented, and Mansel took the appoint- 
ment with, probably, not a little feeling of relief. 

Indeed, the third place in the Board can have been no bed of 
roses to its occupant, whoever he might be. Henry Lawrence himself, 
speaking from his own experience, called it a bed of thorns ; and, by 
a strange coincidence, there stepped into it the man who had been a 
friend of the Lawrence family from his earliest boyhood ; had been 
at Foyle College with both Henry and John Lawrence ; had known 
the wives of both while they were still young girls living in his own 
neighbourhood amidst the wilds of Donegal ; had kept up his affec- 
tionate interest in them and in their husbands while he was gradually 
Tising from one post of duty to another with a rapidly increasing re- 
putation in the North-West ; had been, on Henry Lawrence's recom- 
mendation, summoned to Lahore when the annexation of the Punjab 
took place, and had now, during the last year and a-half, as the Com- 
missioner of the most central and most important district of the an- 
nexed province, been brought into close official connection with both 
him and John. He was thus marked out by his antecedents, by his 
actual position, and by his promise for the future, to be their colleague 
■on the Board ; and so he stepped, as of natural right, into the vacant 

Attached by ties of enthusiastic admiration and love to Henry 
Lawrence, and by strong affection as well as by general aptitudes, by 
official training and by views of State policy, to John, he seemed 
pre-eminently the man to get on well with both, to pour oil upon 
the troubled waves, and, if he could not altogether remove, at least 
to lessen, the rubs and annoyances, the heart-burnings and the mis- 


conceptions, which, if they had hitherto worked admirably for the 
State, had not worked equally well for the peace of mind of those 
who held the reins of power. With an appetite for work sufficient 
to satisfy the demands of the Lawrences themselves, and, perhaps, 
an even greater facility for getting through it ; with a readiness of 
resource which never failed ; with an equanimity which was depicted 
even on his countenance and could never be ruffled ; and with a 
courage which never allowed him to doubt that things, even when 
they looked most desperate, would, somehow, come right at last, and 
which forced those who were of a less sanguine temperament to share 
his confidence, — he seemed marked out for the place he was to fill, 
even if the profound peace which then reigned in the Punjab should 
be succeeded by a time of trouble. No one then foresaw— it was im- 
possible that they could have foreseen — the storm which, some years 
afterwards, was to burst over India ; but even if it had been foreseen, 
and its exact course predicted, it is doubtful whether any man could 
have been found in the whole of the country so admirably adapted 
to fill the precise niche which he did fill when the outbreak came. 
If there is any one act in the long roll of the brilliant achievements 
of the lieutenants of John Lawrence during the Mutiny which may 
be singled out from the rest as having been done exactly at the time, 
at the place, and in the manner in which it ought to have been done 
— as having been planned with caution as well as courage, and carried 
out with triumphant success, and so, as having given, at the very be- 
ginning of the struggle, an omen of its ultimate result — that act was 
the disarmament of the sepoys at Lahore on the morning of May 1 3, 
1857 ; and the man to whom, by universal consent, next after General 
Corbett, with whom the chief responsibility rested, it was pre-emi- 
nently due, was Robert Montgomery. 

It is difficult, as one thinks of the three men thus brought, after 
such widely different, but such laborious and such uphill lives, to sit 
together at the same Council Board, not to let the imagination leap 
back again and again to the primitive country school, with its rough 
amusements, its meagre education, and its spirit-stirring associations, 
which I have attempted to describe in the first chapter of this bio- 
graphy. And I am fortunately able here to relate an anecdote which 
will, I think, not allow anyone who reads it, ever afterwards to forget 
that the triumvirate of Lahore had also been a triumvirate at Foyle 
College, or that the two great brothers who could not agree in some 
matters of public policy were at least agreed in what is more impor- 


tant — in common memories and common affection, in gratitude for 
services, however humble and however long gone by, and in a gene- 
rosity which, in the case of the elder brother, was limited only by all 
that his purse contained ; in the case of the younger, only by a sense 
of the rival claims which other objects might have upon it. I owe 
the anecdote, in the first instance, to Dr. Charles Hathaway, the one 
eye-witness on the occasion. But I may add that its accuracy is also 
vouched for by the one survivor of the triumvirate, Sir Robert Mont- 
gomery, who, at this distance of time, had nearly forgotten the cir- 
cumstances, but to whom, when once the fountains of memory were 
tapped, they have come back with nearly their original freshness. 

On December 25, 185 1, the three members of the Board and 
their wives were taking their Christmas dinner together at the old 
Residency house at Anarkulli. The host was, of course, the President, 
Sir Henry Lawrence ; and the only other guest present was Dr. 
Hathaway, the civil surgeon. The ladies had retired, and there had 
been a few minutes' silence, when Sir Henry turned abruptly to his 
brother, and said, ' I wonder what the two poor old Simpsons are 
doing at this moment, and whether they have had any better dinner 
than usual to-day ! ' The Simpsons, it must be explained, were twin 
brothers in very humble circumstances, who had been ushers in Foyle 
College. The life of an usher in a private school, never a very easy 
one, was not likely to have been more than usually pleasant amidst a 
lot of rough Irish boys ; and the Lawrences, in particular, were fully 
conscious that, in their exuberant boyish spirits, they had not done 
as much as they might to make a galling yoke easy, or a heavy 
burden light. Sir Henry's sudden apostrophe awakened many old 
memories of the school life at Londonderry ; and, after a few remarks 
had been made upon the singular coincidence, that the three men 
who had been at school together as boys so many years back, now 
found themselves associated together once more as the rulers of the 
Punjab, Henry Lawrence, with the impulsive generosity which formed 
so prominent a part of his character, exclaimed, ' I'll tell you what 
we '11 do. The Simpsons must be very old, and, I should think, 
nearly blind ; they cannot be well off ; let us each put down 50/. and 
send it to them to-morrow as " a Christmas-box from a far-off land, 
with the good wishes of three of their old pupils, now members of 
the Punjab Board of Administration at Lahore."' 'All right,' said 
John, ' I'll give 50/.' * All right,' said Montgomery, ' I'll give another.' 

VOL. I. Y 


The cheques were drawn and exchanged on the morrow for a Treasury 
remittance-note on England, which was duly despatched. 

The kind message with its enclosure found its way safely across 
the ocean. Weeks passed by, each spent in hard work and rough 
work, and the subject was nearly forgotten, when one morning, 
amongst the pile of letters brought in by the dawk, there was one 
bearing an Irish post -mark. It was from the old Simpson brothers 
at Londonderry. The characters were written in a tremulous hand, 
and, in many places, were almost illegible from the writer's tears, 
which had evidently fallen almost faster than he wrote. That letter, 
if it could be found, would be worth publishing. Very possibly, it 
was preserved by Sir Henry ; and had it not been for the unfortunate 
circumstances under which his papers were passed about from hand 
to hand, in order that a record of his life might be handed down to 
posterity, it might, perhaps, be found among them now. But the 
memory of him to whom I owe the story has carefully preserved, 
through the lapse of thirty years, its general drift and its most salient 
points. It began : c My dear, kind boys ; ' but the pen of the old 
man had afterwards been drawn through the word ' boys,' and there 
had been substituted for it the word ' friends.' It went on to thank 
the donors, in the name of his brother as well as of himself, for their 
most generous gift, which, he said, would go far to keep them from 
want during the short time that might be left to them ; but, far above 
the actual value of the present, was the preciousness of the thought 
that they had not been forgotten by their old pupils, in what seemed 
to be the very high position to which they had risen. He did not 
know what the ' Board of Administration ' meant, but he felt sure it 
was something very important ; and he added, in a postscript to his 
letter, with childlike simplicity, that he had looked out the Punjab 
in 'the old school atlas,' which they had so often used together, but 
he could not find either it or Lahore ! ' Oh,' said Sir Henry, when 
he came to this part in the letter, to his friend Dr. Hathaway, who 
happened again to be present, ' if you could only see, as I can see 
it now, that grimy old atlas, grown still more grimy by its use during 
the thirty years which have passed since I knew it, and the poor old 
fellow trying to find in it what it does not contain ! ' 

It only remains to be added — and it gives a touching finish to 
the story — that the writer of the letter, old as he was, lived on till he 
saw one of his three pupils in the flesh once more ; and that, when 
the citizens of Londonderry were giving a banquet to Sir Robert 


Montgomery, who had just then returned from India, with the honours 
of the Mutiny thick upon him, the half-blind old schoolmaster 
managed, with the help of a ticket that had been given him, to be 
present also. His purse may have been as empty, but his heart must 
certainly have been as full as that of any of the assembled guests ; 
and it may safely be asserted that, by this time, he hardly needed to 
look into 'the old school atlas ' to find where the Punjab lay ; for it 
was from the Punjab that India had been saved, and it was to his 
three old pupils and benefactors, Henry Lawrence, John Lawrence, 
and Robert Montgomery, that its salvation was admitted to be chiefly 
due. He died very shortly afterwards, happy that he had lived on, 
like Ulysses' faithful dog of old, to see the day of his pupil's, or of 
his lord's return. l 

In January, 1852, Lord Stanley (now the Earl of Derby), who 
was then making a tour in India, visited Lahore, and was, for a few 
days, the guest of John Lawrence. It was here that he saw for the 
first time the man whom, on his return to England, seven years later, 
he was to appoint to the newly formed Indian Council, and whom, 
twenty years later again, in his admirable speech at the ' Lawrence 
Memorial ' meeting at the Mansion House, he was to describe in two 
words, which, in my opinion, hit off better than any others that 
which was most essential in John Lawrence's character. ' Without,' 
said Lord Derby, ' claiming any special intimacy with Lord Lawrence, 
I may say, as the world goes, that I knew him well, and the impres- 
sion that his character always left on my mind I can only describe as 
that of a certain heroic simplicity' Lord Dalhousie, in anticipation 
of Lord Stanley's visit to the Punjab, had written previously to both 
the brothers, begging them, if possible, to prevent his extending his 
travels to the dangerous North -West frontier, on which the Mohmunds 
and the Swattis were just then giving trouble. ' If any ill-starred 
accident should happen,' said he, ' it would make a good deal of 
difference whether it happened to Lord Stanley and Sir Henry Law- 
rence or to John Tomkins and Bill Higgins.' But British India is, 
happily, not like Russian Turkestan ; and not even the most cautious 
Governor-General would think of putting anything but moral impedi- 
ments in the way of any visitor, English or Russian, who might wish 

1 I have been informed since the publication of the first edition, that a fourth 
50/. note was afterwards added to ' the Simpson Fund ' by a fourth old pupil, the 
present Sir George Lawrence, who had recently, as I have related, left the Punjab, 
after a serious illness, for Rajpootana. 


to see any part of his dominions. ' Lord Stanley,' writes John Law- 
rence in reply to the Governor-General, ' has just left us after seeing 
all that was to be seen at Lahore. He will join my brother in 
Huzara and then go with him via Peshawur to the Derajat ; he was 
not to be dissuaded from the Kohat pass.' It was the last tour, as 
it turned out, that Henry Lawrence was ever to take along the 
frontier of the province which he loved, and which loved him so 

There is little of general or even of biographical interest in the 
correspondence which passed between John Lawrence and the 
Governor- General while his elder brother was absent on this and a 
subsequent tour in the interior. The Mohmunds and Swattis and 
'fanatics of Sitana,' afterwards so famous, had been showing signs of 
hostility, and John Lawrence, as his letters prove, was in favour of 
offensive operations against them, from which Sir Colin Campbell, 
with his usual caution, seemed to shrink. 

It is quite clear how averse Sir Colin Campbell is to entering the hills 
at all. Whatever reasons he may give, his real one is a want of con- 
fidence in the Regular Native Infantry. This feeling is not only shared 
by nearly all the Queen's officers but by many of the Company's officers 
also. I believe, if they expressed their real opinion, they would prefer 
going with any infantry but the Regulars. The Guides, Ghoorkas, Pun- 
jab Irregulars, are all thought more of for hill warfare than the Regulars. 
Would it not then, my Lord, be well to reduce the number of the latter, 
and increase our Irregular infantry ? I would not advocate too large a 
reduction of the Regulars. Their fidelity and habits of obedience will 
always make them valuable, but a mixture of troops of other races would 
make our army more efficient in time of war, and quite as safe in peace. 
... I feel convinced that until we do inflict a real chastisement on either 
the Mohmunds or Swattis, the Peshawur valley will never be tranquil, 
and the longer the punishment is delayed, the more manifest this will be. 
I cannot believe that it would be a difficult matter to effect our object, if 
we only go at it with a real will. 

About this time, George Edmonstone, the able Commissioner of 
the Cis-Sutlej States, fell ill and was obliged to contemplate a visit 
to England, and the arrangements for filling his place, and that of 
the still more important Commissionership of Lahore, rendered vacant 
by the elevation of Montgomery, occupied very much of John Law- 
rence's time and thoughts. He brought the claims of all possible 
candidates before Lord Dalhousie, with whom the patronage rested, 
with judicial impartiality, and, after weighing them in his own mind,. 


■ended by recommending George Barnes for the one appointment, 
and Charles Raikes, Collector of Mynpoorie, and formerly, as will 
be remembered, his own assistant at Paniput, for the other. Henry 
Lawrence was inclined to recommend different arrangements, but 
the Governor-General, as usual, agreed with John. 

It is hopeless (John Lawrence had written to him) to look for results 
of real value, unless the Commissioner is a first-rate officer, thoroughly 
understanding that which he has to teach. In looking back on the past 
three years since annexation, I feel that we owe much to these officers. 
We may lay down rules and principles, but these fall still-born to the 
ground without Commissioners to explain their scope and meaning and 
see them carried out. The progress in each Division has been in a direct 
proportion to the zeal, the energy, and the experience of its Commissioners. 

I write to your Lordship frankly and openly. I feel that the good of 
the country and my own reputation depend on the men who are selected 
for high employment. . . . Thornton has excellent qualities. He is a 
good revenue officer, perhaps the best we have, and is efficient in all 
departments. His main excellence is the pains he takes to instruct and 
train the men under him. 

It may be convenient here, and it is certainly just and right, now 
that we have reached the time when the Board which had done such 
splendid work in the Punjab was about to be swept away, to bring- 
together the names of the more prominent or more promising of those 
officers to whom the Lawrence brothers were so anxious to put it on 
record that a large part of their success was due. Many of their names 
have occurred before in this biography ; many of them will occur 
again and again, some, as among the foremost heroes, military or 
civil, of the Mutiny, some, as excellent generals in India or outside 
of it, some, as able administrators of provinces as vast or vaster than 
the Punjab itself, others, again, as civil engineers, as writers, as ex- 
plorers, as statesmen — but all of them connected by ties of friendship 
or respect with the subject of this biography, and all of them, also, 
fellow-workers with him in a school where there was no room for the 
unwilling, the laggard, the incompetent. 

Of the seven Commissionerships, then, into which the whole 
annexed Sikh territory had been divided, Lahore had fallen, at first, 
to Montgomery and, afterwards, to Raikes, Jhelum to Edward 
Thornton, Mooltan to Edgeworth, Leia and the Derajat to Ross, 
Peshawur and Huzara to Mackeson, the Cis-Sutlej, at first, to 
Edmonstone and, afterwards, to Barnes, the Trans-Sutlej, John 
Lawrence's own first post of dignity, to Donald Macleod. 


But many of the subordinate positions were held by men who 
were quite as promising, and some of them have risen to even greater 
distinction than those I have already mentioned. Such were men 
like Robert Napier and Neville Chamberlain, John Nicholson and 
Herbert Edwardes, George Macgregor and James Macpherson, 
George Lawrence and Harry Lumsden, John Becher and Alexander 
Taylor, James Abbott and Saunders Abbott, Crawford Chamberlain 
and Reynell Taylor, George Campbell and Richard Temple, Henry 
Davies and Robert Cust, Edward Lake and George Barnes, Hercules 
Scott and Richard Lawrence, Lewin Bowring and Edward Brandreth, 
Richard Pollock, Hugh James, and Douglas Forsyth. Never, pro- 
bably, in the whole history of our Indian Empire, have there been so 
many able men collected together within the limits of a single pro- 
vince, and never has there been a province which could, with so 
little favour, open to so many able men so fair a field. 

But the Lawrence brothers, whose fame had brought all these 
distinguished men together, and had made employment in the Punjab 
to be an object of ambition throughout India, had now, as it seemed, 
pretty well completed such good work for it as they could do best in 
double harness. The Board had never been looked upon either by 
Lord Dalhousie, who established it, or by the members of which it 
was composed, as more than a provisional arrangement to meet tem- 
porary needs. These needs it met, as I have already pointed out, 
in a way in which no other arrangement would have done. Under 
its rule, the country had quieted down. Its fierce and fanatical 
soldiers had become peaceful agriculturists. The military arrange- 
ments for the defence of the frontier, and the police arrangements 
for the suppression of crime and the preservation of order, had been 
almost completed. Organised brigandage and violent crime had 
ceased to exist. The land-tax had been lightened, and the whole 
revenue arrangements overhauled. Material improvements of every 
kind — bridges, roads, canals, courts of justice, barracks, schools, 
hospitals, asylums — had been projected and had been taken in hand. 
The old order, in fact, had already changed, and had given place to 
the new ; and, if much still remained to be done, the country had 
been fairly launched on a career of peaceful progress and contentment. 
And now a normal state of things throughout the newly annexed 
province seemed to call for a less abnormal government than that 
of a Board. 

These general considerations in favour of a change derived fresh 


force from the idiosyncrasies of the triumvirate. The differences 
of temperament, of training, of aptitude, and of methods of work, 
which had been pretty well apparent between the brothers before the 
Board was formed, were forced into prominence as soon as it met, 
and became more and more marked as the work grew under their 
hands, and all pointed to the dissolution of a partnership as the 
best, though a melancholy, cure for a state of things which had 
become intolerable to the partners. The advent of Montgomery, 
the lifelong friend of the two brothers, full of promise as it had 
seemed at the moment, made things worse rather than better, at 
all events to the mind of the brother who had first summoned him 
to the Punjab. Montgomery was, in a special sense, the friend of 
Henry. But his training and general views of policy tended to make 
him in almost all disputed questions agree with John. Recommended 
by Henry for the Board in the hope that he would oppose John's 
views, it turned out that, like Balaam, he blessed him altogether, and 
Henry Lawrence, one of whose besetting faults, as it appears to me, 
was an inability, at times, to distinguish between honest disagreement 
and personal or interested antagonism, seemed to feel, once and again, 
that, like Ahithophel, his own familiar friend had lifted up his heel 
against him. 

The question of public policy on which, as I have often pointed 
out, the two brothers differed most was that of the treatment of the 
jagheerdars, or men who, under the native system of government, 
had received in return for services — past, present, or future, rendered 
or only imagined — a lien on the land revenue of particular districts. 
It was a question beset with difficulties everywhere, but more par- 
ticularly so in the Punjab, where tenures of the kind were unusually 
numerous and important. A large part of Runjeet Sing's army 
had consisted of cavalry contingents furnished by chiefs who had 
held their lands by this kind of feudal tenure. The principal minis- 
ters of the Lahore Court, the families of Runjeet Sing's chief warriors, 
the wives, widows, and concubines of himself and his three shadowy 
successors, the royal barber and the royal apothecary, the royal astro- 
loger and the cook who had invented a new dish which suited the 
royal palate, Brahmins and fakirs, schools and charitable institutions, 
were all supported, at the time of annexation, not by payments in 
hard cash from the treasury, but by alienations of the land-tax, or, to 
speak more accurately, by the right given to the incumbents to squeeze 
as much revenue as they could out of a given district. These aliena- 


tions had, sometimes, been continued by the native rulers from 
generation to generation, sometimes, they had been immediately and 
arbitrarily resumed. But, in all cases, it was within the power of the 
Government to recall them at its pleasure. Such a system might 
suit a government which cared only for a revenue which it should be 
no trouble to collect, and for an army which it should be no trouble 
to raise and to maintain, but such could not be the methods or the 
objects of the English Government. The Sikhs administered the 
country by means of jagheerdars, and paid them by their jagheers ; 
the English administered it by highly paid British officers, at the 
same time that they endeavoured to lower the land-tax, and to 
introduce grand material reforms. Was it possible to combine the 
two methods of government ? This is the kernel of the whole ques- 
tion, and on the answer given to it will depend the verdict that we 
give on the chief cause of dispute between the brothers. 

It was, of course, a question of degree rather than of kind between 
them. Certain general principles were laid down by the Supreme 
Government which seem, under the circumstances, to have been 
liberal enough. For instance, all authorised grants to former rulers 
and all State pensions were to be maintained in perpetuity so long as 
the object of the endowment was fulfilled. It was in the details of 
the cases which could not be fixed by any hard and fast rule, and 
were wisely left for special consideration, that the two brothers came 
most into collision. In these, Henry, alike from temperament and 
from policy, always leaned to the view most favourable to the 
jagheerdar. John leaned, in like manner, to the view most favourable 
to the interests of the masses, and therefore also to the objects of the 
English Government. 

The preliminary 'inquiries which had to be instituted were of 
portentous proportions. There were some ten thousand cases of 
pensions alone, not to speak of an indefinite number of jagheers, 
varying in size from a province to a village. Herbert Edwardes had 
been especially appointed to conduct the preliminary inquiry in each 
case, and, when he was wanted elsewhere, John Becher succeeded to 
the duty. Becher, whose general sympathies were more in accord 
with Henry, usually recommended a settlement very much in favour 
of the jagheerdar. He would take the case first to the President, 
who was working in one room of the Residency, and who always 
countersigned his recommendation ; he then took it to John, who 
was working in an adjoining room, and who would say, with a merry 


twinkle of his eye which no one appreciated more than John Becher 
himself, ' Ah, I see you want to get over me and let these lazy fellows 
waste the public money. No, I won't have it ; sweep it away ! ' 
Becher then took the case to Montgomery, who generally agreed with 
John. Thus it happened, as Richard Temple once acutely remarked 
to Herbert Edwardes, that, in these matters, while each brother was a 
salutary check on the other, they, at the same time, confirmed each 
other's faults. Henry was more lavish in his proposals because he 
thought that John would attempt to cut them down, whatever their na- 
ture, and John was more hard and economical upon parallel reasoning. 

The advent of Montgomery, in October 185 1, and the attempt 
made by John, in the interests of peace, to procure a division of 
labour, had seemed, for the moment, to lessen the friction. But it 
was for the moment only. In May 1852 — in the interval, that is, 
between his last tour to the Derajat frontier and that to Dhurmsala — 
Henry wrote to Montgomery a long letter of complaint against John, 
with the request that he would show it to the delinquent ; and John 
replied on the following day, at much greater length, carrying the war 
into the enemy's country, and ending with a similar request. Mont- 
gomery, 'a regular buffer,' as he humorously describes himself, 
'between two high-pressure engines,' in forwarding John's reply to 
Henry, gave him some wise advice, in every word of which those who 
know him well may see the man. ' Read it,' he said, ' gently and 
calmly, and I think you had better not answer it. I doubt not that 
you could write a folio in reply, but there would be no use. With 
your very different views you must both agree to differ, and when you 
happen to agree, be thankful. It had been far happier for me were 
your feelings on public matters more in unison. I am happy to be a 
friend of you both. Though differing from you often, I have never 
found you judge me harshly. I try to act as fairly and consci- 
entiously as I can, and would, in my heart, much rather agree than 
differ from you.' 

It is hardly necessary to say, that, in spite of this good advice, a 
folio was written in reply. But the ever-ready peacemaker asked per- 
mission not to show a letter which he thought would only make matters 
worse. ' I will tell John, verbally, that you told me that you felt hurt 
at his letter, and will mention some of the most prominent of your 
remarks as mildly as I can.' Never surely did any 'buffer' do such 
highly moral work, or strive so manfully to keep two high-pressure 
•engines from injuring each other ! 


Extracts from the correspondence, sufficient to show its general 
purport, have been given by Herman Merivale in his Life of Sir 
Henry ; and, like him, I see no good end which could be answered 
by publishing, at this distance of time, the exact charges and counter- 
charges brought against each other by two high-spirited and noble- 
minded brothers, whose devotion to each other was, after all, only- 
less than their devotion to what each considered to be his public 

Non nostrum inter vos tantas componere lites. 

Et tu dignus, et hie. 

Many of the faults alleged, such as the interference of one 
brother with the duties of the other, were no faults at all, but were 
the result of the purest benevolence ; others, if they were faults, were, 
at least, faults on virtue's side, and turned out to be most advantageous 
to the public interest ; others, again, existed only in the heated ima- 
gination of the writer. What portion of the mutual recriminations 
I deem to have been, to some extent, well founded — the uncontrolled 
temper, the personal antagonism, the desultoriness and dilatoriness in 
office work of Henry ; the bluntness even to a fault, the masterful 
spirit, the unbending will, and the imperfect sympathy with men who 
were the victims of a bad system, of John, I have endeavoured to 
indicate in the course of the foregoing narrative. I feel that I am 
acting more in the spirit of Montgomery's advice, and, at the same 
time, doing what each brother would, in his cooler moments, have 
preferred, if, instead of reproducing their heated recriminations, I 
quote here rather a letter written by John to Lord Dalhousie, as far 
back as November 23, 1849— a few months only, that is, after annex- 
ation — which states, with judicial fairness, the differences which, even 
then, he felt that no efforts could bridge over, and, at the same time, 
shows how ready he was to be thrown overboard, like Jonah, if, by 
that means, the ship of the State might be enabled to carry more sail 
and proceed more cheerily on her voyage : — 

My Lord, — I have the honour to acknowledge your Lordship's kind 
note of the 20th, and to beg to offer my sincere thanks for the handsome 
terms in which you have been good enough to express your sense of my 
exertions. It is, unquestionably, a source of gratification to know that 
one's services, however humble, are appreciated by those best qualified, 
to judge. Your Lordship may be assured that, so long as I remain at 
Lahore, my best exertions shall never be wanting in whatever berth it 
may be my fortune to fall. 


I have, all my life, been a hard worker, and it has now become a second 
nature to me. I work, therefore, as much from habit as from principle. 
My constitution is naturally a strong one, and I have never tried it un- 
fairly. But it requires a good deal more exercise and work out of doors 
than I am now able to afford time for. 

Had I followed the dictates of my own feelings, I would have retained 
my old berth in the Trans- Sutlej territory, where my duties so happily 
blended mental with physical exertion. This post had no charms forme ; 
the solitary one, that of ambition, no longer existed when Mr. Mansel was 
appointed above me. I felt, however, that it was the post of honour, that 
I was expected to accept it, and that to have refused would have led to 
misconceptions. Having done so, I have endeavoured to discharge the 
duties to the best of my ability. How onerous these duties are, few can 
understand who are not behind the scenes. There are many drawbacks 
to my position, however high and honourable, independent of that of 
health, particularly to a man of decided opinions and peculiar tempera- 
ment. If I know myself, I believe I should be happier and equally use- 
ful to the State if I thought and acted on my own bottom. I am not well 
fitted by nature to be one of a triumvirate. Right or wrong, I am in the 
habit of quickly making up my mind on most subjects, and feel little 
hesitation in undertaking the responsibility of carrying out my views. 
The views of my brother, a man far abler than I am, are, in many respects, 
opposed to mine. I can no more expect that, on organic changes, he 
will give way to me, than I can to him. He is my senior in age, and we 
have always been staunch friends. It pains me to be in a state of an- 
tagonism towards him. A better and more honourable man I don't 
know, or one more anxious to discharge his duty conscientiously ; but, in 
matters of civil polity of the first importance, we differ greatly. With Mr. 
Mansel I am on excellent terms ; but his views incline more to my 
brother's than my own. Thus I have not only my own work to do, but 
have to struggle with my colleagues. This is not good for the public 
service. Its emergencies require a united and vigorous administration. 

I have no claims on your Lordship's patronage, but if there is another 
post available in which my talents and experience can be usefully em- 
ployed, I shall be glad to be considered a candidate. I have always had 
the credit of some administrative talent, and for the three years previous 
to annexation not only brought my own charge— the Trans-Sutlej territory 
— into the flourishing condition it is in now, but, for many months, during 
the two first years, was also employed at Lahore, on duties foreign to my 
own post. Had I been a soldier and not a civilian, I should have 
received rank and honours. Men who were my assistants, who were 
commencing their career then, have gained them, and justly. 

When the late Governor-General left India, the last letter he wrote was 
to me, thanking me for my services, and telling me that, had he remained, 

332 LIFE OF LORD LA WRENCE. 1849-52 

he would have served me. Though a little vexed at the mode in which 
Sir Frederick Currie superseded me at Lahore, I felt no very anxious 
desire for the berth ; for I knew too well its difficulties and dangers, and 
was satisfied with what I had. I feel myself now in a false position, and 
would be glad to extricate myself, if I can do it with honour. 

I would not have thus intruded my hopes and wishes on your Lord- 
ship but for the consideration I have experienced at your hands. I will 
not further weary your Lordship with my affairs. I will simply add, that, 
if it is necessary that I stay at Lahore, I will do so with cheerfulness, and 
fulfil my duties as long as health and strength may last. 

Lord Dalhousie shelved the request thus pathetically made by 
the just and pregnant remark that, however the brothers might suffer, 
the result was unquestionably beneficial to the public. And so the 
public-spirited John clung gallantly to the ship which did, for another 
three years, speed steadily on her course, but with ever- increasing 
strain to those who had to work her and to stand in all weathers at 
the helm. At last, in December 1852, the crisis came. The Resi- 
dency at Hyderabad fell vacant, and both brothers wrote — almost 
simultaneously — to Lord Dalhousie, requesting him to transfer one 
or other of them to the vacant post. Each avowed frankly his own 
preference for the Punjab, but each expressed his readiness and even 
anxiety to leave it rather than prolong the existing state of things. 
Make any arrangement, was the upshot of their request, by which we 
may yet do good service to the State, but let it be in lines where our 
different views may obtain their appropriate field. John wrote to 
Courtenay, the Secretary to the Governor-General. The letter is 
long, but it is important, and I quote the greater part of it : — 

Lahore : December 5, 1852. 
My dear Courtenay, — The circumstance that General Fraser is about 
to leave Hyderabad has led me to a hope, perhaps a vain one, that it may 
give an opening for some change in my present position. I am well aware 
how decidedly the Governor-General was, last year, opposed to my leaving 
the Punjab, and how much kindness he showed me in giving Mansel 
Nagpore. But it is just possible that the same objections may not appear 
so cogent now. Be this as it may, I feel a strong desire to explain to you 
the perplexities of my situation. My brother and I work together no 
better than we formerly did. Indeed, the estrangement between us has 
increased. We seldom meet, and still more seldom discuss public matters. 
I wish to make no imputation against him. His antecedents have been 
so different from mine, we have been trained in such different schools, 
that there are few questions of internal policy connected with the adminis- 


tration on which we coincide. I have now, as I have always had since 
annexation, a very large portion of the work to do. I have endeavoured, 
but in vain, to secure a division of labour, not simply because I was im- 
patient of advice, or averse to hear the opinions of my colleagues, but 
because I found it was the only way to prevent continual collision. I can 
understand each member working his own department, enjoying the credit 
of success, and responsible for failure. I can understand three members 
working in unison who have a general unity of view, and the work of all 
thereby lightened. But what I feel is the mischief ot two men brought 
together, who have both strong wills and views diametrically opposed,, 
and whose modes and habits of business do not conform. 

The Governor- General once remarked to me that, however much we 
might both suffer from such a state of things, the result has been publicly 
beneficial. It may have been so, but this is daily becoming less apparent. 
You once remarked that had I given way more, it was not improbable 
that my brother would, ere this, have gone home. But this is a mistake. 
He will stay in India as long as he can. He does not like England ; his 
wife absolutely dislikes it. He will live and die in harness, as I have 
often heard him express it. But, setting all this aside, I should be 
sincerely sorry to benefit at his expense. Moreover, it would have been 
neither honourable nor becoming to have given up my deeply rooted and 
long-considered views of public matters in the hope of personal benefit. 
The result, also, in the administration would have proved different. Our 
antagonism has had the effect of securing a middle course, but it has 
lessened the force of the administration ; it has delayed the despatch of 
business, and given rise to anomalies and inconsistencies in our corre- 
spondence and policy, and lessened the influence we should possess over 
our subordinates. To me, this state of things has been so irksome, so- 
painful, that I would consent to great sacrifices to free myself. I care 
not how much work I have, how great may be my responsibilities, if I 
have simply to depend on myself; but it is killing work always pulling 
against wind and tide, always fighting for the unpopular and ungrateful 

I am the member of the Board for economy even to frugality ; my 
brother is liberal even to excess. I see that the expenses of the country 
are steadily increasing, and its income rather decreasing, and thus, that 
useful and necessary expenditure must be denied. I am constantly urged 
to give my countenance to measures I deem inexpedient, and my refusal 
is resented as personally offensive. I am averse to passing any questions, 
to recommending any measure, without scrutiny ; this necessity is not felt 
by my brother, or he satisfies himself by a shorter process, and, hence, I 
have to toil through every detail. Even when I go away for a time I 
gain little, for I still carry my own immediate work, and, when I return, 
find accumulated arrears. 


If I feel so heavily the discomfort of my position, my brother is 
equally sensible of his own. He thinks he has not that power and 
influence which, as President, he should have, or which his general ability 
and force of character should ensure for him. He deems himself checked 
and trammelled on all sides. ... If Hyderabad is not thought suited to 
me or is wanted for another, I shall be glad of any berth which may fall 
vacant. Rajpootana, Lucknow, Indore, would, any of them, delight me. 
I would even accept a Commissionership, and go back to the humdrum 
life of the North-West, if I can do so with honour. My first impulse was 
to write to the Governor-General. On reflection, I prefer addressing you. 
A refusal through you will, perhaps, be less distressing than one from his 
Lordship. You can say as little or as much to him as you think fit. He 
has always treated me with frankness and consideration, nor do I wish 
him to think me insensible of such treatment. I can write to you with 
more ease than would be becoming if I addressed his Lordship. 

The two resignations being thus practically placed together in 
Lord Dalhousie's hands, it remained for him to make the embarrass- 
ing choice, which he had so long managed to postpone, between 
them. Had it still been his wish to prolong the existence of the 
Board, his choice would hardly have been doubtful between the 
soldier who disagreed with so much of his policy and the civilian 
who heartily approved of it. But he had long since made up his 
mind, when a convenient opportunity should occur, to dissolve the 
Board itself now that its work was done, and to substitute for it the 
rule of a single man. This made his decision to be almost beyond 
the possibility of doubt. No conscientious Governor-General would 
be likely to confide the destinies of so vast and so important a pro- 
vince to the supreme command of a man with whom he was only 
half in sympathy, and to whom, owing to the differences between 
them, he had never given more than half his confidence, when there 
was a rival candidate on whom he could place the most implicit 
reliance, and with whom he could feel the fullest sympathy. The 
Hyderabad vacancy had already been filled up by the appointment 
of Colonel Low, but the ' Agency to the Governor-General in Raj- 
pootana,' a post, in many respects, admirably suited to a man who 
had such keen sympathy with native dynasties and which required 
its occupant to travel about all the cool season, and allowed him to 
rest all the hot in the pleasant retreat of Mount Aboo, was offered to 
Henry Lawrence instead. 

But Rajpootana was not the Punjab. It was not the country in 
which he had made warm personal friends by thousands, and round 


which the labours and the aspirations of a lifetime had gathered. 
What booted it that his salary as Agent was to be made equal to that 
which he had had as member of the Board ; that the work was less 
heavy and less trying ; and that the Governor- General, by way of 
sugaring the bitter pill which he had to swallow, told him that if Sir 
Thomas Munro himself had been a member of the Board, he would 
still have been driven to appoint ' a trained civilian ' in preference to 
him as Chief Commissioner? All this was like so much vinegar 
poured into his open wounds ; for Henry Lawrence, if he was not 
1 a trained civilian,' and if he failed therefore in the more mechanical 
parts of a civilian's duty — method, accuracy of detail, continuous 
application — seems to have been altogether unconscious of the failure; 
and it is not too much to say that, for twenty years past, he had filled 
civil and political offices in the North-West, on the Punjab frontier, 
and in the Punjab itself, in a way in which few civilians in India 
could have filled them. His life was, henceforward, to be a wounded 
life, and he carried w r ith him to the grave a bitter sense of what he 
thought was the injury done to him by Lord Dalhousie. Perhaps he 
would have been more or less than human if it had not been so. 
But if he needed any assurance of the way in which his work had 
told, and of the impress which he would leave behind him in the 
country of his choice, it would have been given by the scene which, 
as more than one person who was present has described it to me, 
was witnessed at Lahore when the decision of Lord Dalhousie — 
fully expected, yet almost stupefying when it came, quite justified 
by the facts, yet, naturally enough, resented and condemned — was 
made known there. Grief was depicted on every face. Old and 
young, rich and poor, soldiers and civilians, Englishmen and natives, 
each and all felt that they were about to lose a friend. Strong men, 
Herbert Edwardes conspicuous amongst them, might be seen weeping 
like little children ; and when the last of those last moments came, 
and Henry Lawrence, on January 20, 1853, accompanied by his 
wife and sister, turned his back for ever upon Lahore and upon the 
Punjab, a long cavalcade of aged native chiefs followed him, some 
for five, some for ten, others for twenty or twenty-five miles out of 
the city. They were men, too, who had nothing now to hope from/ , 
him, for the sun of Llenry Lawrence had set, in the Punjab at least, 
for ever. But they were anxious to evidence, by such poor signs as 
they could give, their grief, their gratitude, and their admiration. It 
was a long, living funeral procession from Lahore nearly to Umritsur. 

33° LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. .1849-52 

Robert Napier, now Lord Napier of Magdala, was the last to tear 
himself away from one who was dearer to him than a brother. ' Kiss 
him,' said Henry Lawrence to his sister, as Napier turned back, at 
last, heart-broken towards Lahore. ' Kiss him, he is my best and 
dearest friend.' When he reached Umritsur, at the house of Charles 
Saunders, the Deputy -Commissioner, a new group of mourners and 
a fresh outburst of grief awaited him ; and thence he passed on into 
Rajpootana, 'dented all over,' to use his friend Herbert Edwardes' 
words, ; with defeats and disapprovals, honourable scars in the eyes 
of the bystanders.' They were honourable, indeed, because they 
were all of them received, in accordance with his own chivalrous 
character, ' in defence of those who were down.' 

1 To know Sir Henry was to love him,' says one of his friends. 
: No man ever dined at Sir Henry's table without learning from him 
to think more kindly of the natives,' says another. ' His character 
was far above his career, distinguished as that career was,' said Lord 
Stanley. ' There is not, I am sure,' said Lord Canning, when the 
disastrous news of his soldier's death at Lucknow thrilled throughout 
England and India, 'any Englishman in India who does not regard 
the loss of Sir Henry Lawrence as one of the heaviest of public 
calamities. There is not, I believe, a native of the provinces where 
he has held authority who will not remember his name as that of a 
friend and generous benefactor to the races of India.' 

It has been my duty, in the course of this narrative, to point out 
some of the specialities in his training and his character which, in my 
judgment, rendered him less eligible than his younger brother for 
the post of Chief Commissioner of the Punjab. It is, therefore, all 
the more incumbent upon me to say that, having studied large por- 
tions of his unpublished correspondence, and having conversed with 
most of his surviving friends and relations, some of them followers 
and admirers of the younger rather than of the elder brother, it is 
my deliberate conviction that, take him all in all, his moral as well 
as his intellectual qualities, no Englishman who has been in India 
has ever influenced other men so much for good ; nobody has ever 
done so much towards bridging over the gulf that separates race 
from race, colour from colour, and creed from creed ; nobody has 
ever been so beloved, nobody has ever deserved to be so beloved, as 
Sir Henry Lawrence. 




The departure of Sir Henry Lawrence from the Punjab, if it gave an 
immediate feeling of relief from an intolerable tension, was also a 
cause of sore distress of mind to the brother who had been working 
with him under such strained relations, but with such truly brotherly 
affection. How painful and how distressing the whole circumstances 
had been to him, his innermost circle of friends and relations alone 
knew fully. But it may also be inferred from the whole course of the 
preceding narrative. To have worked as he had done for and with 
his brother, often at the expense of his personal inclinations, of his 
health, of his family life for years past, ever since, in fact, our con- 
nection with the Punjab had begun, and then to have been driven at 
last to take the place which that brother might have been expected, 
and had himself expected, to fill ; to feel that some of the best 
officers in the Punjab, men who had been attracted thither by Henry, 
and regarded him with enthusiastic affection, were looking askance at 
him, perhaps, attributing to him unworthy acts or unworthy motives, 
and, perhaps, also, preparing, like Nicholson, to leave him in the 
lurch and follow the fortunes of their old master ; to feel that the iron 
had entered so deeply into his brother's soul as to make it doubtful 
whether he would ever care to see him again, or to be addressed by 
the old familiar name of ' Hal,' 1 — all this must have been distressing 
enough, and, for the time at all events, must have thrown the other 
feeling of relief into the background. 

In reply to a touching letter which his brother had written to him 
on the eve of his departure, begging him to treat the dispossessed 
chiefs kindly, ' because they were down,' and wishing him all success 
in his new post, John Lawrence replied as follows : — 

1 His letters to his brother after this period always begin, ' My dear Henry. ' 
VOL. I. z 


My dear Henry,— I have received your kind note, and can only say 
in reply that I sincerely wish that you had been left in the Punjab to 
carry out your own views, and that I had got another berth. I must 
further say that where I have opposed your views I have done it from a 
thorough conviction, and not from factious or interested motives. I will 
give every man a fair hearing, and will endeavour to give every man his 
due. More than this no one should expect. ... It is more than probable 
that you and I will never again meet ; but I trust that all unkindly feeling 
between us may be forgotten. 

Yours affectionately, 

John Lawrence. 

It was a melancholy beginning for the Chief Commissionership — 
a post inferior in importance to few in India, and one which Sir 
Charles Napier had himself said he would prefer to the command-in- 
chief of the Indian army. But, once more, it may be observed that 
it was to the advantage of the State, not less than of the brothers 
themselves, that the change had, at last, been made. Henry Lawrence 
had bridged over the interval between the native and the English 
systems, had eased the fall of the privileged classes, had attracted the 
affections of all ranks to himself, and so, in a measure, to the new 
Government, in a way in which John by himself could certainly not 
have done. The work of pacification — Henry's proper work — was 
over. The foundation of the new edifice had been laid, in much 
tribulation, perhaps, but by a happy compromise between the extremer 
views of the two brothers. It now remained to build upon the foun- 
dation which had been laid, to develop, to organise, to consolidate. 
This could be better done by one man than by three ; and the 
warmest admirers of Henry will admit that, when the crisis came 
four years later, it was well for England and well for India that there 
were then, and that there had been for those four preceding years, no 
divided counsels in the Punjab. It was well that there was one clear 
head, one firm will, one strong hand, to which anybody and everybody 
could look, and which would be free to judge, to issue orders and to 
strike, on its own undivided responsibility. 

The work of John Lawrence was, as I have already pointed out, to 
be, in the main, one of development — of progress, that is, within lines 
which had been, to a great extent, laid down. It is unnecessary, 
therefore, to treat the four years of peaceful rule which follow with 
the particularity of detail with which it seemed desirable to describe 
the virgin soil and the new fields of enterprise and activity which 
opened out before the Board. The questions which confronted John 


Lawrence, as Chief Commissioner, were much the same as those with 
which he had to deal as one of the triumvirate. There was the 
same difficult mountain frontier to defend ; the same turbulent and 
faithless tribes to civilise, to conciliate, or to coerce ; the same deeply 
rooted social evils, which had, as yet, been scotched only, not killed, 
to grapple with. There was the same standing question — which can 
hardly be said to have been solved even now — of how a revenue 
may best be raised from the land, which should not unduly depress 
the cultivator, and yet leave a margin for those grand material 
and social improvements which had been set on foot. Finally, there 
were the same diversities of character and temper in the staff of able 
assistants who had flocked to the Punjab, as to the crack regiment of 
the service, from all parts of India, to be studied and humoured, 
stimulated, reconciled, or controlled. 

It would be easy with the help of the six folio volumes of letters 
written by Lord Lawrence during this period, and which, of course, I 
have myself carefully studied throughout, to show in detail how he 
dealt with each of these and a hundred other difficulties as they arose. 
But it would require at least a folio volume so to do, and it would in 
my judgment, both here and in the case of his Viceroyalty, defeat the 
primary object which a biographer ought to keep in view throughout 
— the bringing before his readers, in the boldest possible outlines, the 
central figure. In such a folio volume, the man would almost neces- 
sarily be lost in the details, very often in the driest and most me- 
chanical details, of his work. If it revealed to us everything that he 
did, it would be at the cost of not knowing much of what he was. I 
do not, therefore, propose to describe, in order of time or in minute 
detail, the steps by which each wild tribe that crossed our frontier was 
repelled and punished, and sometimes gradually drawn towards a 
quiet life ; but rather to show what that general scheme of frontier 
policy was, which has been so much attacked and so much misrepre- 
sented, but which will always, as I think, be most honourably con- 
nected with Lord Lawrence's name — a policy which has ensured the 
safety of India, has husbanded her resources, has respected the rights 
of weaker and more barbarous races, and has imposed a salutary 
check on the aggressive tendencies which are always natural, and not 
always to be severely condemned, in the military leaders of an ener- 
getic and expansive race. Neither do I propose to give minute 
statistics, such as may be found in the Punjab Reports, of the rise 
and fall of the Revenue or of the increase or diminution of crime, or 

z 2 


to explain how this or that misconception in the mind of a subordi- 
nate against a brother officer, or against his chief, was removed by an 
infinite expenditure of tact and patience on the part of that chief ; 
but rather to point out how he impressed his own strong personality, 
his own single-minded devotion to the public service, on the whole 
body of his subordinates ; how he got rid of the incompetent, how he 
stimulated the slow, how he doubled the energies even of the most 
energetic. It is by such a sketch as this, rather than by a detailed 
history of his administration, that I hope I shall be able to make clear 
to others, within the limits of two or three chapters, what I think I 
have at least made clear to myself by long and laborious study — how 
it was that, when the crisis came, John Lawrence, with the help of 
the men whom he had gathered and had managed to keep around 
him, proved equal to the emergency ; and how it was that, in the 
Punjab and outside of it, everybody alike, his enemies as well as his 
friends, the natives as well as the Europeans, felt that nothing could 
well go wrong so long as he was at the helm. 

On the final abolition of the Board, in February 1853, John Law- 
rence was gazetted ' Chief Commissioner of the Punjab.' He alone was 
to be responsible to the Supreme Government for carrying out its orders. 
He was to be the head of the executive in all its branches, to take charge 
of the political relations with the adjoining states, to have the general 
control of the frontier force, of the Guide corps, of the military police, 
and of the Civil Engineer's department. Under him there were to 
be two ' Principal Commissioners,' the one the head of the Judicial, 
the other of the Financial departments of the State. The division of 
labour for which, as a member of the Board, he had so often and so. 
earnestly pleaded, was thus carried out under the most favourable 
auspices. Each of the two officers under him was to have sole con- 
trol' over his own department instead of a divided joint control over 
all. In this manner, his attention was concentrated and his indi- 
vidual responsibility fixed, while uniformity of design and of practice 
was secured by the appointment of a single head. 

The two men selected to fill the posts next to John Lawrence in 
dignity were, both of them, men after his own heart. Montgomery, 
of course, was one of them. He became Judicial Commissioner,, 
and, as such, he was not merely to be the chief judge of appeal and 
assize, but was to discharge many purely executive functions, ta 
superintend the roads, to be the head of the police, to have the 
control of the local and municipal funds, and to be responsible for 


the execution of miscellaneous improvements, especially for the 
progress of education. The Financial duties fell to George Edmon- 
stone, who had just filled the difficult and complicated post of 
Commissioner in the Cis-Sutlej States, and whose contemplated 
return to England had filled John Lawrence with anxiety only a few 
weeks before. Everything now went smoothly enough. Arrears of 
all kinds were rapidly cleared off. Those officers who had threatened, 
in their vexation, to leave the Punjab, did not carry out their threat, 
and few of them ever talked again of doing so. Those who were 
away on furlough and who said, in their vexation, that they would 
never return to it, now that it had lost Henry Lawrence, were glad 
enough to do so, when they found how much of what was best in 
Henry Lawrence's administration was also to be found in John's. 
Nicholson, in particular, whose presence among the wild tribes of 
Bunnoo John Lawrence pronounced, a few months later, to be c well 
worth the wing of a regiment,' in spite of the hasty resolve which I 
have just mentioned, and in spite also of many misunderstandings 
which were rendered inevitable by his masterful spirit and ungovern- 
able temper, was induced or enabled by the unvarying tact and 
temper of his chief to remain at his post even till the Mutiny broke 
out. A few sentences from the first letter which John Lawrence 
wrote to him — the first letter which he wrote to any one after he 
became Chief Commissioner — may, in view of the romantic interest 
attaching to the recipient and the characteristic mixture of frankness 
and friendliness on the writer's part, fitly find a place here. 

Lahore : January 22. 

My clear Nicholson, — . . . You have lost a good friend in my brother, 
but I hope to prove just as staunch a one to you. I set a great value on 
your zeal, energy, and administrative powers, though I may sometimes think 
you have a good deal to learn. You may rest assured of my support and 
good-will in all your labours. You may depend on it that order, rule, and 
law are good in the hands of those who can understand them, and who 
know how to apply their knowledge. They increase tenfold the power of 
work in an able man, while, without them, ordinary men can do but little. 
I hope you will try and assess all the rent of Bunnoo this cold weather. 
It will save you much future trouble. Assess low, leaving fair and liberal 
margin to the occupiers of the soil, and they will increase their cultivation 
and put the revenue almost beyond the reach of bad seasons. Eschew 
middle-men. They are the curse of the country everywhere. The land 
must pay the revenue and feed them, as well as support the occupiers. 


With a light assessment, equally distributed over the village lands, half 
your labour will cease, and you will have full time to devote to police 

Yours sincerely, 

John Lawrence. 

How well the promise that he would support Nicholson in all his 
labours was kept, is evidenced by some hundreds of letters which 
passed between the two men, and by the whole of their subsequent 
history. James Abbott, indeed, did leave the Punjab, to the relief, 
perhaps, of his immediate superiors — Mackeson and Lord Dalhousie, 
who had found him somewhat impracticable and wayward — but to 
the deep regret of the wild inhabitants of Huzara, who regarded him 
as a father, and with the warm appreciation of what was good and 
great in him (and there was very much that was both good and great 
in him) on the part of John Lawrence. ' He is a right good fellow/ 
said the Chief Commissioner, 'with ability of a high order.' It 
should be added that his departure had been arranged for before the 
abolition of the Board, and was in no way due to the change of 
masters. Herbert Edwardes succeeded him in Huzara, the halfway 
house, as John Lawrence pointed out, to the much more important 
post of Peshawur — a post which he was pre-eminently the man ' to 
have and to hold ' during the troublous times that were drawing near. 
Hodson, who had once been a friend of Henry Lawrence, a man of 
great courage and energy, but with a moral twist which was to lead 
him all awry, succeeded to the command of the Guides in place of 
Harry Lumsden, who had gone home on furlough. Hathaway became 
Inspector of Prisons ; Raikes filled the Commissionership of Lahore, 
vacated by Barnes, while Barnes went to the Cis-Sutlej States to take 
the place of Edmonstone. These were the only changes of import- 
ance in the early days of the Chief Commissionership ; and thus, 
though there was some shifting of the parts, the actors in the great 
drama, with one important exception, remained the same. It was a. 
new act, or a new scene ; but the play was an old one, and the plot 
remained unbroken throughout. 

It may also be remarked here, that, when once the spirit of 
mutual antagonism had been removed by the removal of his brother,. 
John Lawrence's policy in the matter of jagheers and rent-free tenures 
began to gravitate slightly, but sensibly, towards that of Henry. 
Perhaps the last moving appeal of Henry Lawrence on behalf. of 
1 those who were down ' had touched a chord in his heart of the 


existence of which he may have been hardly conscious before. But, 
in any case, the recommendations on the subject of such tenures — 
some sixty or seventy thousand of which had not yet been considered 
— which were made by him, as Chief Commissioner, tended to be 
more liberal in their character than any which he had ever sanctioned 
as member of the Board. So liberal were they, that they were often 
disallowed by Government, and, at last, drew down a letter of rebuke 
from Lord Dalhousie himself, who appealed from the John Lawrence 
of the present to the John Lawrence of former days. It must have 
been one drop of comfort in Henry Lawrence's bitter cup, if he 
realised that it was so. 

In personal character, too, I think I am not wrong in saying that 
John Lawrence bore, henceforward, a greater and a constantly in- 
creasing resemblance to his brother. Without losing a particle of his 
energy, his independence, his zeal, he did lose, henceforward, some- 
thing of his roughness, something of that which an outsider, or an 
opponent, might have put down as hard or harsh. 'The two 
Lawrences,' says one who knew them intimately and appreciated them 
equally, General Reynell Taylor, ' were really very much alike in 
character. They each had their own capabilities and virtues, and 
when one of them was removed from the scene, the J rater superstes 
succeeded to many of the graces of his lost brother.' In this sense 
it is, I believe, true that the influence of Henry Lawrence was greater 
on his brother, and was even more felt throughout the Punjab Ad- 
ministration when he had left the country for ever, than while he was 
living and working within it ; just as the words, the looks, the memory 
of the dead have often a more living influence on the survivors than 
had all the charms of their personal presence. The memorable 
words, ' If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto 
me,' are true, not in their literal and their original sense alone. They 
give expression to a great fact of human nature, which — as He who 
uttered them would, we may believe, have been the first to point- 
out — are true, in their measure, of all His followers, and, most of 
all, of those who follow Him most closely. 

Throughout his future career, when any particularly knotty ques- 
tion came up, John Lawrence would ask himself as one — and that 
not the least important — element for his consideration how his brother 
Henry would have acted under the circumstances. 'My brother 
Henry used to say so-and-so,' were words which those who knew 
him best have told me came very frequently to his lips ; and only a 


few months before his death, when he had just decided to throw 
himself into the breach, in the hope that he might still stop the 
iniquity of the Afghan war, ' I believe,' he said pathetically to Mrs. 
Hart, the only daughter of Sir Henry Lawrence — ' I believe your 
father would have agreed with me in what I am doing now.' 

As to his own feelings, now that he was able to stand on his own 
foundation, and to get through double the amount of work with less 
than half the former amount of worry, John Lawrence writes thus to 
the Governor- General : — 

I am infinitely indebted for the kind and handsome manner in which 
my new post has been conferred. The manner in which the favour has 
been granted has added greatly to its value. I only trust that I may prove 
worthy of the distinction. . . . Whatever may be the result of the new 
system, I must say that I feel no fears or misgivings on that account. 
I have with me some of the very best men whom the Civil Service can 
produce, as Commissioners. If any incentive to exertion was wanted, 
which I feel there is not, it is that the honour of the whole Civil Service 
is, to a large extent, in my hands. I desire earnestly to show what a man 
bred and educated as a civilian can do in a new country. 

To his friend Raikes he writes in similar terms. * We are getting 
on swimmingly. The peace and comfort of the new arrangements 
are almost too much for one's good. I scarcely think that I deserve 
to be so comfortable.' It was not that he had more leisure, for, as 
he tells one correspondent, ' his pen was hardly ever out of his hand;' 
and he begs another never to cross his letters, for he was * almost 
blind with reading manuscript' It is the first indication that I have 
been able to find of the calamity which was ultimately to overtake 
him. Of course, there were plenty of troubles to come, but divided 
counsels and arrears of work were seldom to be among them. In 
one very sanguine moment, indeed, he expresses his expectation 
that, under the new system, his work will be reduced one-half, and 
that he will, for the future, be able to have more of the luxury of 
thought. But this was not a hope destined to be realised, nor would 
he have been a happier man if it had been. 

To get the pay of the Punjab officers raised to an equality with 
those of other parts of India, and so to remove a standing grievance, 
from which they, if any officers in India, deserved to be free ; to in- 
struct — personally to instruct, as though he had been their immediate 
superior — young and raw civilians in the routine of their duties, and 
so to bring his personal influence to bear upon them from the very 


beginning of their career ; to induce men 'who, like Nicholson or 
Mackeson or Hodson, were essentially men of action, to become — 
what was much more difficult and still more essential for good 
government — men of business also, and to keep and send in the 
reports of their administration punctually ; to induce men who, like 
Nicholson again, or Edwardes or James, were, before all things, sol- 
diers, and whose notions of justice were essentially military notions 
— a short shrift or a quick delivery — to adhere rigidly to the forms of 
justice : to take care, for instance, that even when a murderer was 
caught red-handed on the Trans-Indus frontier he should be con- 
fronted with witnesses, should be allowed to summon them for him- 
self, and to have the charge, the evidence, and the sentence carefully 
put on record ; to induce men who, like Nicholson once more, must 
have been conscious of their unique powers of command and of their 
superior military ability, to be ready always to consult and to obey 
their superior in military rank ; to persuade energetic military politi- 
cals, like Coke, who were always burning to take part in military 
operations which were going on, perhaps, some fifty miles from their 
civil station, that the chief test of a good officer was his willingness 
always to remain at his post ; to keep the Engineers, with Robert 
Napier at their head, within bounds in carrying out their magnificent 
works, and to convince them — though in this not even he, much less 
any one else, could have succeeded — that one of the most necessary 
parts of their public duties was a strict and punctual preparation of 
their accounts ; to correspond at great length, and with infinite tact, 
with his friend Courtenay, Private Secretary to the Governor-General, 
on important and embarrassing questions of State, for which he had 
gradually to prepare the * Lord Sahib's ' mind, and then put them before 
him for decision, in the fitting manner and at the fitting time and 
place ; to bring before the Governor- General himself, with judicial 
impartiality, the conflicting claims of every candidate for every 
important post in the Punjab ; to induce him, at whatever cost, to 
remove an incompetent, an unwilling, or an unworthy officer, on 
the principle on which he himself had always acted, that it was better 
that one man should die for the people than that a whole people 
should die for one man ; to suggest to overworked and over-willing 
men, like John Becher, the necessity — a necessity which John Law- 
rence certainly never recognised in his own case — of sparing them- 
selves, and to point out the precise methods by which they could 
best do so ; to help those who like Donald Macleod, with the best 


intentions and the highest ability, were yet, owing to unconquer- 
able idiosyncrasies, always hopelessly in arrears, by actually himself 
going through hundreds of their papers and clearing them off ; to 
protect the natives generally, particularly the native soldiers, from all 
ill-treatment, whether of a blow, a word, or a contemptuous gesture 
from officers who occasionally, even in the Punjab, dared to forget 
that difference of colour or of race implied only an increase of 
moral responsibility ; to order or counter-order, or keep within 
the limits of justice and of moderation, the retaliatory expeditions 
which the raids of the wild tribes upon our frontier, after long for- 
bearance on our part, often rendered inevitable ; to keep down, in 
view of the paramount necessity, in so poor a country, for economy, 
the demands for additional assistants which crowded upon him from 
the Commissioners and Deputy- Commissioners as they found their 
work growing under their hands ; to decline civilly, but decidedly, 
the request of wives for their husbands, or of mothers for their 
sons, that he would give them appointments for which they were not 
competent ; to inculcate upon his subordinates his own salutary 
horror of jobs of every degree and every description, and to keep 
them as far as possible — as he had always kept himself till his health 
had broken down and the doctors told him that a change in his habits 
was essential to his stay in India — from gravitating, if I may so say, 
towards the hills, those delectable temptations, as he regarded them, 
to the neglect of work and duty ; — these were some of the subjects, 
perhaps, a tithe of the whole, with which the correspondence of the 
first few months shows he had to deal ; and they form, I think, a fair 
sample of his whole work and responsibilities as Chief Commissioner. 
His correspondence with Lord Dalhousie and with John Nichol- 
son would each fill a volume, and a volume replete with historical as 
well as biographical interest. That with Lord Dalhousie gives, perhaps, 
a higher idea, as a whole, than any other of his loyalty and his manly 
frankness, of his insight and his statesmanlike breadth of view ; that 
with Nicholson, of his prudence and his patience, of his forbearance 
and his magnanimity— in a word, of his determination, cost him what 
it might, to retain in the Punjab a man whom, stiff-necked and mas- 
terful as he was, he recognised as a commanding genius, and as a 
single-hearted and devoted public servant. The one set of letters 
shows John Lawrence's readiness to obey, the other his claims to com- 
mand. The one gives the most convincing testimony to the powers 
of his head, the other to the still more sterling qualities of his heart. 


It is difficult, by any mere selection from John Lawrence's corre- 
spondence, to give an adequate idea of the way in which he dealt with 
such questions as I have enumerated ; and I have therefore put into the 
first place the judgment which I have myself been led to form from 
a minute study of them as a whole. I proceed, however, to give a 
few extracts which, if they do not go very far, go at least some way 
towards justifying and illustrating what I have said. 

A rather inexperienced, but energetic and promising, civilian, 
named Simson, had been thrown suddenly on a district which had 
been sadly neglected by his predecessor ; and, finding himself in 
great difficulties, frequently applied direct to the Chief Commissioner 
for help. The Chief Commissioner thus responded : — 

Work away as hard as you can, and get all things into order. If you 
succeed, you will establish a claim to early promotion which cannot be over- 
looked, and which, as far as I go, shall not be passed over. I made my 
fortune, I consider, by being placed, in 1834, in a district in a state similar 
to Leia, in which I worked for two years, morning, noon, and night, and, 
after all, was superseded ! Nevertheless, all my prosperity dates from 
that time. Your charge of Leia will prove a similar one in your career. 
... I would throw my strength into putting things straight for the future, 
and leave off complaints of the past, as much as possible, weeding out 
bad officials, and making an example in a summary but legal way here 
and there. . . . Without being too formal and technical, put on record 
all that occurs, and be careful that you act in accordance with law and 
justice. . . . You may give such reductions as you may consider fair and 
reasonable. Don't give it merely because people scream, but where it is 
necessary. Better give a little too much than too little : it will be true 
economy in the end. 

Nicholson, Simson's neighbour at Bunnoo, was not disposed to 
take his complaints and difficulties in quite such good part, and wrote 
to the Chief Commissioner to that effect. The Chief Commissioner's 
answer was to the point. ' Simson is doubtless a bit of a screamer ; 
but the people scream even louder than he does against the bad 
system that has prevailed there.' 

The very high opinion which John Lawrence had formed of 
Nicholson from the earliest times, and retained to the end, in spite 
of frequent trials of strength, will come out abundantly in the sequel. 
But the following will give some idea of one of the many difficulties 
which he had in dealing with him. 

I consent to an expedition against the Sheoranis, who have lately 


burnt and plundered one of our villages. I wish, however, that the 
Brigadier (Hodgson) should approve and concur in the necessity of the 
expedition, and that either he or Fitzgerald should command. I do not 
wish that either you or Coke should go into the hills unless no other 
equally efficient officer is available. As district officers, it is desirable 
that you both remain in your district ; most mischievous results might 
ensue if either of you were killed or wounded ; for the whole of the 
administration would be hampered. 

A thoroughly characteristic remark this, and one Vv r hich the recipient 
may, very possibly, at the time, have not altogether appreciated ! A 
man is seldom able to contemplate his own wounds or death simply 
from the point of view in which they may affect the government of 
the day, and he may, not unnaturally, resent the head of that govern- 
ment appearing to do so either. But it was John Lawrence's way 
always to put public considerations in the front, leaving private con- 
siderations, as they are generally able to do, to assert themselves ; 
and could Nicholson have seen the terms in which this apparently 
uncompromising disciplinarian was, even then, writing to Lord Dal- 
housie l and others about his vast capacities and his intrinsic worth, 
still more, could he have foreseen the strong personal regard, nay 
the enthusiastic admiration, which, years afterwards, when the news 
came — the news of a lifetime — that Delhi had fallen, threw all joy 
into the background, and forced tears from the eyes of his chief, 
because, with the news of victory, came, also, the news that he was 
dead, — he would have been able to read between the lines of this 
and similar letters, and would, perchance, have loved the man 
almost as much as he admired the ruler. 

Nicholson's answer on this occasion does not seem to have re- 
moved the misgivings of his chief, that he might be induced, by a 
little extra provocation, to go on an expedition on his own account ; 
and John Lawrence writes to him again, thus : — 

I shall be very glad if you punish the Sheoranis, but get Hodgson to 
agree in your measures. Don't think that I wish you to go into the hills 
with too small a force ; on no account risk anything in this way. . . . 
Pray report officially all incursions. I shall get into trouble if you don't. 

1 E.g. on August 31, 1853 : ' I look on Major Nicholson as the best district \ 
officer on the frontier. He possesses great courage, much force of character, and 
is, at the same time, shrewd and intelligent. He is well worth the wing of a 
regiment on the border ; for his prestige with the people, both on the hills and 
plains, is very great. He is also a very fair civil officer, and has done a good deal 
to put things straight in his district.' 


The Governor-General insists on knowing all that goes on, and not un- 
reasonably ; but I can't tell him this if I don't hear details. 

A few days later, the danger still seemed imminent. 

If you must go into the hills, by all means try and have the Brigadier 
in favour of it. It will not do to go against his opinion. Be he what he 
may as Brigadier, his opposition would be fatal if aught went wrong ; so 
pray try and have him in favour of the scheme, and don't go without his 
consent. Even success would not justify your doing it. If he thinks you 
should have more troops, get him to apply to Mooltan for a corps, and 
say I authorise his doing so. Don't suppose that I fear the responsibility 
of allowing you to go into the hills. I shall willingly take on myself that 
responsibility, but it seems essential that the Brigadier who commands 
on the frontier should be in favour of the measure. Government gave the 
Board, and has given me, the power to authorise offensive measures when 
absolutely necessary ; but they would not support us if aught went wrong 
and we had set aside the Brigadier's opinions ; so pray recollect this. 

Well might Lord Dalhousie write, ' I know that Nicholson is a 
first-rate guerilla leader ; but I don't want a guerilla policy.' A 
guerilla policy it is likely enough there would have been, all along 
the five hundred miles of frontier, under such provocation as our 
frontier officers were constantly receiving, had there been a less 
powerful and, at the same time, a less patient ruler than John 
Lawrence at the helm. It need only be added that the expedition 
did come off at last, that it was confined within reasonable limits, 
that it effected its purpose, and, thanks to John Lawrence's efforts, 
caused no breach between the Brigadier and his impetuous subor- 

Robert Napier, with his magnificent ideas and his regardlessness 
of expense, was a help and a difficulty of a somewhat similar kind. 
Everything he did was well — probably it could not have been better 
— done. Like Nicholson, he had come into the Punjab under the 
auspices of Henry Lawrence ; and w T hen John, * the member of the 
Board,' as he described himself, ' who was for economy, even to 
frugality,' succeeded to his brother's place, it was inevitable that there 
should be some friendly passages of arms between them. Napier, 
conscious, no doubt, of his great powers, and as fond of work almost 
as John himself, wished — as it was only natural that he should— that 
as many public works as possible should be started and completed 
in the best possible way and in the shortest possible time. The 
Chief Commissioner, who was responsible for the well-being of the 


province as a whole, and therefore for its solvency, was compelled to 
put the drag on ; to ask that no new works should be begun before 
the old were completed ; that all new works should be duly authorised ; 
and, above all, that progress-reports and accounts should be sent in 
•as regularly as possible. I am bound to say that in this he only very 
partially succeeded, and, perhaps, it was not altogether bad for the 
State that it was so. The pressure he put upon Napier was by no 
means entirely voluntary on his part. It is amusing, in the mass of 
correspondence before me, to note how the Directors were con- 
tinually putting economical pressure on Lord Dalhousie, which he 
handed on to John Lawrence, which he, knowing his man, handed 
on with interest to Napier, which he, also knowing his men, after a good 
deal of passive resistance, and probably with large reductions, handed 
on, in turn, to his subordinates. It was the case of the water which 
would not quench the fire, and the fire which would not burn the 
rope, and the rope which would not hang the man ! 

Napier's subordinates— Alexander Taylor, for instance, who was 
in charge of the Peshawur Road, and has described the state of things 
to me — were employed, every day and all day, on the great works on 
which they were engaged, and had no time, or fancied they had none, 
to send in elaborate reports to their chief, which he might then have 
transmitted to John Lawrence in good time for their publication in the 
biennial ' Punjab Reports,' or for the quieting of the financial anxieties 
of the Governor-General. The Engineers were thus a constant, if an 
involuntary, source of trouble to the Chief Commissioner, who used 
to tell them humorously that they ' could not open their mouths 
without taking in a lac of rupees.' But, as I have said, the system 
did not work so badly for the State, and it certainly did not affect 
the respect and regard of John Lawrence for Napier. It was at John 
Lawrence's earnest request, as well as by the Governor-General's own 
sense of the fitness of things, that Napier was appointed Chief Engi- 
neer of the Punjab in 1854. 'I am very glad,' said John Lawrence 
on May 6, 1854, 'that the Governor- General has given Napier the 
Chief Engineership. He is a fine fellow, and there cannot be a 
question that he is the man who should get it. The work he has 
done since annexation is enormous, and would have killed many 
men.' And, years afterwards, when the Abyssinian war was in pros- 
pect, and John Lawrence was asked whom he would send as Com- 
mander-in-Chief, ' So-and-so would do,' he said, ' pretty well; but 
if you want the thing thoroughly well done' — and he doubtless 


thought, as he spoke, of the Grand Trunk Road and the Bari Doab 
Canal — ' go to Napier.' 

A few more extracts from John Lawrence's letters during the first 
year of his Chief Commissionership will give some idea of the way 
in which he rebuked the wrong-doer, helped the willing or the ill-in- 
structed, tried to keep down extravagance, and got rid of inefficient 

To Captain Coke, an officer of much energy and ability, but 
rather new to civil work, and then in charge of Kohat, he writes on 
March 20, 1853 : — 

You must not be annoyed at not being allowed to go with your regi- 
ment to a distance from Kohat. It is very natural, and very soldier-like, 
that you should wish to do it. But it is my duty to look to the public 
weal, and this requires that you should be at Kohat, above all things, at 
the time when it has been weakened by the absence of a portion of its 
force. I look on it that the absence of the district officer from Kohat or 
Bunnoo is equal to the absence of an extra wing of infantry. Besides, in 
your absence, how is the civil work to be carried on? If you are killed 
or wounded, who is to supply your place ? . . . Take my advice : get a 
copy of the 'Accountant's Manual,' and study it for half an hour a week, 
and get a general idea of its contents. Afterwards, when anything bothers 
you, turn to the Manual, or make your clerk do so, and in three months 
you will get your office into order, and in six months you will be as au 
fait at all these matters as Mr. Grant himself. Unless you do this, you 
will always be in trouble, and, some day, be put down as incompetent. 
If you are to be a civil officer you must master civil details. Don't be 
annoyed at my plain mode of dealing with the matter. It is the best way 
to put the thing right. You must serve an apprenticeship in these things. 
Don't let Mackeson rest until he passes, or gets passed, all your bills. 
I will help you : but I can only do so thoroughly when you come up in 

an official form I am ready to help you by showing you how to 

go about things. It is a pity that your Commissioner does not do this 

To Captain , on March 21, he writes : — 

I think it right to tell you that I hear the Sirdars of your district ex- 
press a good deal of discontent with your administration. I understand 
they complain much of your spies, informers, and omlah (native staff). 
I beg you will look to this. We should all try to do our duty without 
giving cause of offence. There is no machinery so difficult to manage as 
that of espionage. 

On July 17, he writes to Nicholson : — 


681 rupees per mensem is, doubtless, no great thing in itself, but it is 
not a solitary case. Our pensions and pay have eaten up the larger por- 
tion of the revenues of the Punjab already, and there is seldom a day 
that more claims don't come up. The consequence is that good and use- 
ful projects are refused or stinted for finance considerations. You may, 
perhaps, not care for such considerations, like many other of our friends ; 
but I am bound to do so. Sooner or later that consideration predominates 
over all others. 

I see the poor Court of Directors has gone smash because we chucked 
away fifteen millions in the Afghan war, and could not afford the material 
improvements India required. Don't send up any more men to be hanged 
direct, unless the case is very urgent ; and when you do, send an abstract 
of the evidence in English, and send it through the Commissioner. 

Here is one of many letters which touch on a subject on which he 
felt very strongly— the proper treatment of the natives by English 
officers. There had been serious discontent, approaching to mutiny, 
in the Third Sikh Local Infantry in Huzara ; an inquiry showed that, 
if the men were somewhat to blame, the commanding officer was 
much more so. Accordingly, John Lawrence writes thus to Lord 
Dalhousie : — 

Captain did not succeed to an easy charge ; certainly not to such 

an orderly and well-disciplined corps as the First Infantry Locals. But 
it appears evident to me that he has not the qualities which fit an officer 
for so important and delicate a trust as the command of an Irregular 
Corps. It is notorious that some of our European officers cannot speak 
civilly to a native of India. They cannot restrain themselves from giving 
vent to gross abuse, when in any way excited, if the party has a black 

face. Captain seems to be one of this class. Edwardes, in his 

private note, admits that 'he slangs the men dreadfully.' Is it likely that 
he habitually thus addressed the men, and was more considerate with the 
native officers ? The natives of all classes, though they may not show it, are 
particularly sensitive on this point. A kindly free manner, a soft tone, a 
general accessibility in their superiors, are the qualities which win their 
attachment, perhaps even more than impartiality and a high sense of 

One of the great advantages of the present system of officering 
irregular corps is the facility which exists of getting rid of incapable 
officers by sending them back to their own regiments. I strongly recom- 
mend that this be done to Captain . It is impossible to place any 

confidence in his judgment, temper, or firmness. 

He recurs to the same subject in a letter to Lord Dalhousie's 
private secretary : — 


You will see what I say of the Third Sikhs. It will not be necessary 
to disband them. Get rid of the mufsids (mischievous fellows), and send 

to his corps and put a real soldier in his room, and all will come 

straight. There are good soldiers in the Company's army, and while 

they are to be had, such a man as should never have been selected. 

I fear you will think me an iron-hearted fellow ; but when I see the evils 
which arise from using incompetent tools, I think we cannot be too care- 
ful—first, in our selections, and secondly, in getting rid of any man who 
proves that he is unfit for his work. However careful we may be, some 
mistakes must be made. The sooner they are corrected, the better. 
Mercy to individuals is cruelty to the mass and ruination to the public 

service. I think if is not removed it will be a grave mistake. I 

have no idea of flooring the native officers and sparing the English ones. 
One would think that the former got all the honour and glory, and the 
European officers nothing, for directly there comes a rumpus, all blame 
is thrown upon the natives. 

It only remains to be added that the Chief Commissioner's re- 
monstrances were successful, and that the regiment, placed under a 
new commanding officer, was reported, within a few months, as being 
in excellent order, and as having volunteered for service wherever 
they might be required, in any quarter of the world. 

The taking of a bribe by a British officer has, happily, been a rare 
occurrence in the history of British India, but one such case actually 
occurred in the Punjab. The following is written to the culprit : 

July 16, 1853. 

I received your note of the 14th, and regret I am unable to give it any 
other public answer than I have done. I really do not know what to re- 
commend, and yet I do not like to say nothing to help you. It strikes 
me that the simplest course is for you to write to Mr. J. P. Grant, and 
throw yourself on the Governor-General's mercy ; admit that you were a 
fool and a madman, and say you are ready to suffer the penalty of your 
fault. I see not that you can do otherwise to any advantage. 

This is a very sad business. I mean not to reproach you in your 
affliction, but, in the whole course of my service, I never knew a case 
where a civilian gave or received a bribe. Why did you not write and 
ask me about your promotion ? 

It is useless my trying to help you. There is no remedy for the error 
you have committed other than to bear the penalty and express your 

To his great friend, John Becher of the Engineers, who had only 
just taken to civil work, he writes in a strain which is so unlike his 
vol. 1. a A 


usual one, bidding him not to do more, but to be content with less 
work, that I quote a sentence or two from it : — 

Umritsur : April 22, 1853. 
I had the pleasure to receive yours of the 20th. I should have rejoiced 
to have seen you, as we passed through, but I understand and appreciate 
your motives in not coming. 1 am afraid you have a weary life of it at 
Buttala, and that the work presses heavily on you. . . . Don't overdo the 
thing ; don't work too hard. Divide your work, and make all do their share. 

Becher was, in time, transferred to Huzara, and proved a worthy 
successor there of James Abbott and of Herbert Edwardes. He was 
still much oppressed by his work, and, knowing alike his willingness 
and his ability, his chief writes in much the same strain, hoping to 
suggest a remedy. His incidental remarks on his own powers of 
work are of biographical interest. 

March 16, 1854. 

I cannot understand how two men cannot do the Huzara work with ease. 
I know you work hard ; perhaps, more so than is necessary ; certainly, 
more than is good for you ; but I cannot understand how it happens that 
you do not make more way. So far from marching about delaying my 
work, I have always found it was the best time for getting through any- 
thing like arrears. When I was a district officer, I was, at least, six 
months of the year under canvas, and found that I got through every- 
thing and had time for everything. I made settlements, decided bound- 
aries, got over maafi (rent-free holdings) and foujdari (magisterial cases). 
I suspect that you want confidence in yourself, and, though you are always 
grinding, that you procrastinate when you come to the actual decision. 
Abbott may have left you arrears which I wot not of, or it may be that 
Pearce does not take his share. There must be a hitch somewhere. 
Huzara is a mountainous country, thinly peopled, with little commerce. 
How there can be much work in such a place passes my comprehension. 

I have been literally, but truly, on the move ever since the end of 
August, and my office was never in better order than at present. I do 
not write this to glorify myself or to underrate your labours, but that you 
may turn the matter over in your mind, and discover where the mistake 
lies. Nicholson is here. He is a first-rate ' warden of the marches.' 
The district is in capital order. 

To complete this account of John Lawrence's treatment of his 
subordinates during the earlier part of his Chief Commissionership, 
I subjoin here a trenchant but kindly criticism of the man whom 
perhaps he loved more than any man living — one who was soon to 
be in close connection with him as ' Financial Commissioner ' in 


Edmonstone's place, was to work on with him in perfect harmony 
throughout the Mutiny, and afterwards, when he was Viceroy, was to 
be recommended by him for the Lieutenant-Governorship of the 
Punjab itself— the late Sir Donald Macleod. John Lawrence loved 
him for his goodness, and, when he was already overwhelmed with 
work, would gladly take over any number of his papers, and go 
through them himself. The description is lifelike, and by no one 
would it have been more enjoyed, or its truthfulness more readily 
acknowledged, than by Macleod himself. 

August 1, 1853. 
Dear Edwardes, — I have known Donald Macleod for twenty-five 
years, and appreciate his real worth and merit as much as any man can 
do. Morally and intellectually, he has no superior in the Punjab, perhaps 
no equal. But, as an administrator, he is behind Edmonstone, Raikes, 
and even Barnes. He is too fond of polishing, and his execution is not 
equal to his designs. He wastes much time on unimportant matters. 
He spends as much time on a petty case as on an important one. His 
Commissionership has not fair and honest work for a man of ability and 
knowledge for six hours a day. I know it, for I was Commissioner there 
for three years when it had to be licked into shape. It is useless saying 
that we must choose between quality and quantity. We must have both, 
or the result is a failure. There are certain things to be done in an official 
berth, and a certain time to do them in. A good and efficient adminis- 
trator will so distribute his time as to do them all. He will economise 
when it can be done safely, and throw in his power when it is wanted. 
Edmonstone has not the intellect of Donald ; he has not his knowledge 
of the customs and habits of the people ; but by order and economy of 
time, joined to an iron constitution, he did treble the work that Donald 
does ; and, on the whole, he did it better. He would not do a given case 
so well, perhaps, but he would do a hundred, while the other would do 
ten, and he would do them rightly. Donald spends half the day writing 
elegant demi-official chits. I spin off a dozen in a day, and they don't 
take an hour. They may want the elegant turn he gives to his, but they 
are to the point and do all that is necessary. Edmonstone, Raikes, and 
Barnes have more settlements than Macleod. The revenues of the country 
cannot afford more men. We must either reduce the salaries, and thus 
effect a saving to pay for more men, or we must get more work out of our 
Donalds. An assistant is of little or no use to a really efficient Commis- 
sioner. The mere drudgery of the office should be done by the head 
clerk, who gets the pay of an educated man. No practical man would 

have kept such a man as for his head clerk for a month. Donald 

moans, but retains him. At this moment, he has not sent up any report 
of his administration for the past three years, and has several hundred 

a a 2 


appeals standing over, some as long as four years. He has men under 
trial in jail for upwards of a year. ' Bis dat qui cito daf is a good motto- 
in administration. Donald is not fit for a new country ; he has, with all 
his virtues, radical defects. I see this, who love the man ; what more 
can I say ? 

The only events in the Punjab or its dependencies which involved 
any possible political complications during the first year or two of 
John Lawrence's Chief Commissionership, were a contest for the 
succession in the adjoining State of Bahawulpore, and the murder of 
Mackeson at Peshawur. How did he deal with them ? 

Bahawulpore is an extensive tract of country to the south of the 
Sutlej, between the Punjab and Rajpootana, which, so far back as 
1809, had acknowledged British supremacy, but had always retained 
its internal independence. The Nawab, who died at the end of 
1852, had done us good service in the second Sikh war, and it was 
by his special request that we recognised the succession of his third 
son Saadut Khan, to the exclusion of the eldest, Haji Khan. The 
elder brother, thanks, doubtless, to the humanity encouraged by the 
British connection, was saved from the fate which he would have 
suffered, under similar circumstances, at any purely native court, and 
was only confined in prison. He soon escaped, and a civil war 
followed. The Chief Commissioner was at first disposed to prevent 
disturbances which would be likely to spread to the adjoining districts 
of the Punjab, by giving help to the younger brother ; but, finding 
that the Daoudputras, the dominant clan in the country, were in 
favour of the elder, wisely determined, with Lord Dalhousie's advice,, 
to leave the matter to settle itself — as it usually does in the East — 
by the survival of the fittest. The elder brother gained the day ;. 
and the Chief Commissioner then stepped in, on the plea of humanity 
alone, negotiated the release of the younger brother from prison and 
from death, and gave him an asylum at Lahore, on the understanding 
that he was never to revive his claims. 

It was a trifling episode, but was managed with skill, and involved, 
as I am inclined to think, important consequences : for it was the 
first instance of that wise non-interference with the internal affairs of 
neighbouring States which, henceforward, became a ruling principle 
of John Lawrence's policy, and to which he consistently adhered, 
even when, as in the case of Shere Ali, and the rival claimants to the 
Ameership of Afghanistan, it exposed him to the easy ridicule and 
the persistent hostility of those who, would secure, or endanger, our 


Indian frontier by a series of aggressive or unnecessary wars beyond 
it. By non-interference in this instance he had avoided a war and 
the still worse evil of forcing a ruler on unwilling subjects. In how 
many frontier wars should we have been, ere now, engaged, and how 
many puppet kings should we have placed upon neighbouring thrones, 
and then have seen dethroned again, had he adopted, and had the 
Governments of England and of India approved, of the contrary 
policy ! 

The tribes on our western frontier — partly because they were 
overawed by our conquest of their formidable oppressors, the Sikhs, 
and partly also because they were surprised and satisfied by our 
unaggressive attitude towards themselves — had, hitherto, given us 
much less trouble than the character of their country and the whole 
course of their history would have led us to expect. But barbarians 
are often ready to attribute forbearance and moderation — qualities of 
which they know so little themselves— to a consciousness of weakness ; 
and it was not till various tribes had essayed to cross our frontier and 
burn our villages, and had tested, to their cost, the adequacy of our 
frontier posts and frontier force, for purposes of offence as well as of 
defence, that they began to attribute our moderation to its true cause 
— a just, and wise, and consistent policy, based on the knowledge, 
not of our weakness, but of our strength. Most of these raids were 
repelled or punished at the cost of very few men and very little money. 
But Peshawur, surrounded as it was by hostile or lately subdued tribes 
on three sides, was still a standing source of anxiety. 

Peshawur (wrote John Lawrence, on September the 1st) is unlike any 
other place, except, perhaps, Bunnoo. In these two districts all the 
people have been robbers and murderers from their cradles. It is not a 
section of the people with whom we have to deal ; it is the whole mass. 

The letter had hardly been written when news came that Mackeson, 
the Commissioner of Peshawur, a first-rate soldier and a good political 
officer, had himself fallen a victim to the dagger of the assassin. A 
shoemaker by trade had come to the verandah in which Mackeson 
was holding Court on a dull dusty afternoon, had pretended to faint, 
had staggered towards the Commissioner, and had thrust his dagger 
into his right breast. There had been great sickness that year among 
the troops at Peshawur. The garrison was, at that moment, reduced 
to one-third of its proper strength, and, in the alarm which naturally 
ensued, the deed of blood was put down to the instigation of the 


Ameer of Kabul, to the Akhund of Swat, and I know not how many 
potentates besides. Expeditions against all of them were talked of 
by irresponsible politicians in the cantonments and station of Pesha- 
wur. James, who had to ' officiate ' as Commissioner of Peshawur in 
Mackeson's place, condemned the murderer to death without observing 
any of the forms of justice. Troops were ordered up by the military 
authorities from Wuzeerabad to Rawul Pindi, and from Rawul Pindi 
to Peshawur, and then were counter-ordered before they reached 
their destination, to the great increase of the general confusion and 
alarm. A plot was discovered, or imagined, to seize the cantonments 
at Rawul Pindi when deserted by their proper garrison, and Nadir 
Khan, a discontented son of the Raja of Mandla, escaped to the 
hills, hoping to gather the hill-tribes round him. 

But John Lawrence, who happened to be at Simla, kept his head \ 
rebuked James sternly, by return of post, for his neglect of the rules 
of procedure, and for having yielded to the general panic ; ordered 
the execution of the murderer to be put off till all legal forms had 
been duly complied with, and till some effort had been made to find 
out whether he had accomplices ; suggested all the precautions in 
Peshawur and its neighbourhood which seemed really necessary, and 
was soon able to convince others, as he had already convinced 
himself, that, in a hotbed of fanaticism like Peshawur it was unne- 
cessary to look for any prompting from Kabul or from Swat for such 
a deed. 

The murderer was hanged, after his case had been duly rein- 
vestigated, and his body was burned and his ashes scattered to the 
winds, to prevent the place of his burial being turned into a place of 
pilgrimage, and so, into an incitement to fresh murders, by the bar- 
barous surrounding tribes. Edward Thornton's promptitude and 
courage enabled him, at the expense of a bullet-wound in the throat 
from a skulking foe, to overtake and capture Nadir Khan before any 
rising in the hills had taken place. Other reassuring measures pro- 
duced their proper effect, and the panic, which had, at one time, 
threatened to be a dangerous one, subsided almost as quickly as it 
had spread. 

But the unsatisfactory state of things revealed by the murder of 
Mackeson, and its sequel, determined John Lawrence to go to 
Peshawur himself, that he might see with his own eyes how far the 
measures suggested by him, two years before, had been carried out, 
and that he might concert with the new Commissioner, whoever he 


might be, measures which might make life and property more secure, 
and attach the inhabitants to our rule. 

Mackeson (he says) looked only to political and military matters, and 
neglected that which he never understood — the civil administration. He 
was always looking beyond the border rather than into our own manage- 
ment. We are strangers and infidels in the eyes of the people. If we 
cannot give them peace and security, how can we make our rule popular? 
Though it is not necessary, and, probably, not practicable, to give the 
same polish to things on the border as in the interior of the country, a 
vigorous and intelligent executive is even of more consequence there than 
elsewhere, for neglect produces more fatal and pernicious consequences. 
... It seems to me, the mistake we make is this : We put incapable 
men into the command of the garrison, and then, to mend matters, we 
select good soldiers for our civil administrators. Thus both departments 
go to the dogs. Give the Peshawur command to such men as Patrick 
Grant, or Franks of H.M. 10th ; reorganise your military system there, 
or, rather, organise a proper one ; have troops armed and equipped for 
hill service ; thoroughly subdue every hill-tribe which gives us just cause 
of complaint, and make your civil officers devote their energies to the 
administration of the country. You will then overcome the tribes, satisfy 
the people, and be respected everywhere. As it is now, we are neither 
feared by our enemies nor respected by our subjects. No man appre- 
ciated Mackeson's high qualities more than I did, but work I could not 
get out of him. I have written five times officially, and three times 
privately, before I could get an answer to an ordinary reference ! Every- 
thing was in arrears. The people felt that their affairs were not attended 
to ; and yet we are surprised and indignant that they do not like us. 

The important and immediate question was, who the new Com- 
missioner of Peshawur was to be. Lord Dalhousie had candidates of 
his own in view, and had, more than once, met the Chief Commis- 
sioner's recent recommendations with what the Chief Commissioner 
himself happily called ' an imperial No? But this was an occasion 
on which John Lawrence could not afford to be modest, and, with 
all his earnestness and decision, he pressed on the Governor- General 
the pre-eminent claims of Herbert Edwardes for Peshawur, and of 
John Becher for Huzara. 

The answer was that they might go there now, but it must be 
distinctly understood that their appointments were only temporary. 
But John Lawrence was not to be silenced, and his reply is interesting, 
partly, as giving his deliberate opinion of his distinguished subordinate 
— an opinion so abundantly justified by the result — partly, as showing, 

360 LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE. . 1852-53 

what I think has never been made public before, nor was known to 
the person most concerned, nor even to his biographer — that Lord 
Dalhousie's candidate for Peshawur was a man more distinguished 
still — the Bayard of India— the late Sir James Outram. There were 
obvious objections to such an appointment, which John Lawrence 
was not slow to urge, but it is not without interest to those who know 
the circumstances to speculate as to what might have been the result 
on the destinies of both men and both provinces had the most dis- 
tinguished ' soldier political ' of the Scinde frontier been transferred 
to the post of danger on that of the Punjab, and become subject to 
the control of the great Punjab civilian, who had so much of a 
soldier's heart. Would Sir James Outram, for instance, have been 
able, or would he have desired, to introduce into the Punjab frontier 
policy any part of what was best in that of the rival province? 
Would he have been able, without entering on any aggressive wars, 
to have acquired over the untamed Afridis and Mohmunds any such 
influence as that which he had acquired over the more manageable 
and peaceful Beluchis and Bheels ? Would, finally, the chivalrous 
defender of native princes and races everywhere have taken up the 
weapons which had dropped from Henry Lawrence's hand, and so 
have renewed the struggles of the Board ; or would he have been 
able to work cordially with the modified views of his new master? 
John Lawrence writes, on October 6, 1853 : — 


My Lord, — I feel grateful for the consideration which your letter dis- 
plays, and the best return which I can make will be to state honestly and 
fully my views on the important point of naming a Commissioner for 

I have already informed your Lordship that I consider that Edwardes 
would worthily fill the appointment. After thinking well over the subject, 
and comparing in my mind his qualities with those possessed by others, 
I have no hesitation in saying that I would much prefer to have him 
there. In original ability, and in education, he will bear comparison with 
any officer, civil or military, that I know. He has excellent judgment, 
good temper, force of character, and considerable knowledge of the 
natives. His military and political talents are considerable. He does 
not possess extensive civil experience, but has had two years' good train- 
ing, which, to a man of his ability, is equal to double that period with 
most other people. He has had the advantage of seeing the working of 
the civil administration in all its details by having charge of a District 
which had been regularly settled and managed, and he has served under 


one of the ablest Commissioners (Donald Macleod) in India. When he 
left Jullundur, Macleod pronounced him to be the best District officer he 
had ever met with. Without subscribing to this opinion, I know few 
better ones ; and, as a Commissioner, he would perhaps be more at home 
than even in charge of a District. Edvvardes possesses broad views, a 
conciliatory and kindly disposition, and a natural aptitude for civil ad- 
ministration, which he admires. Such a man is more likely to reconcile 
the Peshawuris to our rule than any other who is available, while he has 
all the qualities to command the esteem of his military comrades, and the 
respect of the frontier tribes. 

I have known him intimately for seven years, and we are on terms of 
the most affectionate intimacy. There is a considerable difference in our 
ages, and I am sure I possess much influence with him. My wishes and 
judgment are, therefore, strongly in his favour. 

Edwardes' reputation has, no doubt, excited the jealousy of his own 
service, to which he is an honour ; but that feeling has greatly lessened 
since his return from England. He was much liked at Jullundur. He is, 
doubtless, a young soldier, but cannot be less than from thirty-two to 
thirty-three years old, and possesses sufficient military rank. . . . 

As regards Outram, I feel much delicacy in even discussing his 
character. He is a fine soldier and a noble fellow ; but he is much my 
senior in age, and has been accustomed to the highest charges. Such a 
man could not brook, not merely my control, which would be sufficiently 
irksome, but that of the Judicial and Financial Commissioners. It is not 
possible that he possesses any knowledge of civil administration. He has 
been bred in the political school altogether, and must, therefore, follow 
its received opinions. He will look to the feelings and prejudices of the 
higher classes, and not to the interests of the mass of the people. No 
man can teach that which he does not know. Be his intentions what 
they may, he will naturally follow the bent of his own views and 
experience. That assiduous attention to the routine of administrative 
details, that prompt response to all references, however apparently trivial, 
and that exact attention to instructions, can only be secured in officers 
regularly trained to their duties. 

We are strangers in language, colour, and religion to the people, who, 
beyond the Indus, are peculiarly intractable, fanatical, and warlike. To 
reconcile them to our rule requires the most careful and able manage- 
ment. The decision of every social question becomes of political im- 
portance. We require a light and equable land-tax, carefully distributed, 
that the influential and the cunning may not shift a portion of their 
burthen on to their humbler neighbours. We want a system of police 
which shall be prompt, resolute, and discriminating, but not oppressive ; 
a form of procedure of the utmost simplicity, and, at the same time, so 
carefully guarded that the facilities for oppression shall be minimised ; 


a judicial system stern and decided, but thoroughly intelligible. All these 
qualities it may be difficult to secure under the greatest precautions, but 
it is hopeless to find them in any system without the careful training of 
our officers. . . . 

Having now said my say, I can only add that, on whomsoever your 
Lordship's choice may fall, I will do all I can to make his position easy 
and to facilitate business. 

It is hardly necessary to say that representations so forcible were 
met, on this occasion, by an ' imperial ' Yes, and Edwardes was at 
once gazetted Commissioner of Peshawur. Before the middle of the 
month, John Lawrence had set out to join him there. His intention 
was to settle, in concert with him, so far as they admitted of an 
immediate settlement, the many burning questions at Peshawur : to 
improve the defences of the frontier, to suggest alterations in the 
composition of the garrison, to coerce the Afridis and other barbarous 
tribes who had broken their engagements and menaced our possession 
of the Kohat pass, and, finally, to clear off the arrears left by Mackeson 
— among other things ' twenty-four sessions cases a year and upwards 
old ! ' This done, he proposed to visit Mooltan, a part of the Punjab 
which, strange as it may seem, he had never yet seen, and which he 
had reason to believe was much behind the rest of the country in